Islington Survivors Network welcomes in principle Islington council’s proposed Support Payment Scheme
Islington Survivors Network said the further public acknowledgement by the council of the ‘darkest hour’ in its history was good, however they will be raising several issues during consultation on the proposed Support Payment Scheme.
If approved, the scheme may see payments potentially totalling millions of pounds being made to survivors of abuse gravely harmed whilst in the local authority’s care. There are proposals for payments of £8,000 each to eligible survivors, which is welcomed in principle by Islington Survivors Network.
Leigh Day solicitors, who represent Islington Survivors Network, says a payment to survivors under the proposed support payment scheme would not shut out legal rights or impinge on their right to separately bring a civil claim for compensation against Islington Council if they should choose to do so. If successful in a civil legal claim, the fixed support payment would be treated as a payment on account and deducted from any final compensation award.
Papers released on 9 March 2021 by London Borough of Islington provided details of their proposals for a Support Payment Scheme for survivors of non-recent abuse suffered when resident as children in the council’s homes.
This is important recognition by Islington Council of its need proactively to reach out to survivors of the Islington children’s homes scandal. Islington Survivors Network is pleased that the Council has recognised that there is a need for a process which is straightforward and quick and seeks to avoid the retraumatisation which can be associated with formal legal proceedings.
The recent papers show that the Council recognises that that child abuse can be properly described as “hidden”, in the sense that there are seldom any contemporaneous records of abuse, and Leigh Day solicitors are heartened to see that the survivor’s own account will be the key material in relation to providing credible information that abuse took place.
Islington Survivors Network has an enormous amount of expertise amassed from working with hundreds of survivors over five years, and this ought to be put to use in assessing applications too, in particular establishing that a survivor was in care or at a given children’s home.
The Council intends to consult on its proposals and there are points that Islington Survivors Network and Leigh Day will want to make in response in due course. These points include, but are not limited to issues such as:
- Why Islington Council will not make payments to those subjected to neglect, even where the survivor may have suffered quite extreme neglect in the Council’s care or the neglect may have lasting consequences for the survivor.
- The exclusion of those survivors who have suffered “purely ‘peer on peer’ abuse”, i.e. harassment or violence from other residents, even though there may be strong arguments that the system of care was deficient to protect the survivor.
- Foster placements appear to similarly be excluded despite recent legal cases proving that a local authority can be held liable for civil claims arising from abuse by a foster carer.
- If someone has died, even where this happened whilst they were waiting for Islington Council to announce this Scheme, their estate will not get any Payment.
- Seeking further information on the local authority’s proposals regarding support, particularly for those survivors who are vulnerable and may need significant support in navigating the scheme, including the proposed automatic review stage.
- Seeking further clarification around the council’s intention to establish a database including details of previous claimants and applicants, and what safeguards shall be put in place to ensure the confidentiality of this information.
A spokesperson for Islington Survivors Network said:
“We welcome in principle the fact that the proposed Support Payment Scheme is a further acknowledgement by London Borough of Islington of the prolific abuse of children in the care of Islington Council. The scheme will be a process that will spare survivors of abuse the need to repeat in a legal setting the trauma of what happened to them and we welcome that.
“However there are matters that still need to be worked through, particularly the extension of the scheme to survivors of other categories of abuse, and we will be pressing for these to be addressed.”
Leigh Day partner Alison Millar represents Islington Survivors Network with solicitor Andrew Lord from the law firm’s abuse team.
Alison Millar said:
“At last Islington Council has announced details of its proposed Support Payment Scheme for children who suffered abuse in its homes. Whilst we and Islington Survivors’ Network will have points to make on the proposed Scheme during the consultation period, it is good that Islington proposes to set up this Scheme to make a further public acknowledgement of its past failures, which truly were the “darkest hour” in the Council’s history.”