Proposed £8,000 payout for Islington care home survivors

Islington Gazette, 12th March 2021

Survivors of abuse in Islington care homes are set to receive thousands of pounds as part of a proposed payment scheme.

Islington Council has outlined its plan to give the sufferers of emotional, physical or sexual abuse in the authority’s care homes from 1966 to 1995 an £8,000 sum as part of a support payment scheme (SPS).

A 2019 report commissioned by the council – Historical Child Care Data, London Borough of Islington – estimated some 2,000 people were living in Islington’s care homes over the critical 30-year period. 

A document drafted for a meeting of the council’s executive on March 18 says it would not be a compensation scheme and will not determine fault, negligence, or legal liability in terms of civil claims which the survivors may bring in the future.

The payment would, however, be deducted from any final compensation amount potentially awarded by the court.

If the proposals are accepted, they would be subject to a six-week consultation. 

This comes after council leader Richard Watts admitted the authority’s “culpability” in 2017, apologising for what he called “the darkest chapter in the council’s history”.

Campaign group Islington Survivors Network (ISN) has largely welcomed the proposals, but plans to raise “several issues” in the consultation. These include the exclusion of victims of neglect, people affected by bullying by other residents, those placed in foster homes and the estates of people who have died.

The group wants clarification around a proposed database of previous claimants and applicants, and what confidentiality safeguards will be in place.

A spokesperson for ISN said: “We welcome in principle the fact that the proposed SPS 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.”

These proposals have been in the making since November 2018.

The report reads: “Whilst nothing can compensate for the traumatic harm caused to and which still affects survivors/victims of historic abuse, a full remedial support offer which has practical support, a financial element and recognition and acknowledgement by the council of the abuse that they suffered, is important to survivors/victims and can be part of a survivor’s journey that helps them to heal and to move forward from their experiences.”

Two alternative options are put forward in the council paper. The first is to offer no financial payment whatsoever.

The other is a “Lambeth-type redress scheme”, which would see all residents of the borough’s care homes in the time period receive a “harm’s way payment” of up to £10,000 and all eligible survivors of abuse receive compensation of up to £125,000.

The former was not recommended by officers because the council “will be seen to have ‘failed’ survivors” and the latter because it has “already paid for several tens of millions of pounds of insurance cover to meet the cost of civil compensation abuse claims” and would be “unaffordable”.

Leigh Day partner Alison Millar, who represents ISN with solicitor Andrew Lord, said: “Whilst we and ISN 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.”

An Islington Council spokesperson said the payment application process would be as “straightforward and quick to access as possible…minimising the need to re-live past trauma”. 

They said: “The scheme would become part of the council’s existing support offer for survivors which includes trauma counselling, specialist advice support and assistance for care, housing, appropriate welfare benefits, access to further education and employment and support to access care records.”

If the proposals are approved, Islington Council said any comments or suggestions arising from the consultation will be “carefully considered”. 

The spokesperson continued: “The council today is a very different organisation from in the 1960s-1990s, and today protecting children from harm is its top priority.”

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