Care homes abuse scandal: ‘Was my son’s life worthless?’

Islington Tribune, 5th November 2021

A MOTHER whose son was abused during the Islington care homes scandal and died last year says the fact his case was excluded from the council’s support payouts for survivors makes lives seem “worthless”.

The Town Hall launched the scheme after apologising for the widescale abuse by staff from 1966 to 1995 – described as the “worst chapter” in the borough’s history. Cash sums are being paid to survivors but no money has been set aside for the families of victims who have died since the discovery of the abuse.

The law firm Leigh Day is representing a number of people who were abused as children while in the care of Islington Council and said it welcomes an increase of the pay award from the £8,000 to the £10,000.

This had been suggested by the Islington Survivors Network during the consultation. The council also agreed payments for cases of peer-on-peer abuse and neglect.

But no money will go to families of abuse survivors who have died in the years since 2017 when the scheme was first proposed.

And it will also exclude many who were subjected to abuse under other sections of ­Islington’s care, such as children in foster care and those whose experience occurred outside of the date ranges specified by the council.

Jacquie Tyrrell-Holt, mother of abuse survivor Tony who died last year, said: “It is the injustice of not having a voice because obviously they are not around. The small numbers involved, they are not getting any justice. They are left to feel their lives are worthless.”

There are believed to be eight families who have had survivors of abuse die since 2017.

Ms Tyrrell-Holt said: “It is dreadful and they shouldn’t be excluded. My son, his life was ruined. He had one child who is now 36 and ­Terry’s life was ruined, too, because Tony wasn’t around to bring him up.

“He took to drugs, he took to alcohol. He lived a homeless existence for a while and couldn’t make a marriage work.

“It was nothing to do with family life because all my other children are settled.”

Ms Tyrrell-Holt said Tony went into care in 1973 when he was ­seven years old as a ­temporary measure after two of her children died.

She said: “I had a breakdown and needed a bit of help. It was supposed to be a couple of weeks and I was told by the management there he was a disturbed child, he tried to set fire to a ­dormitory and had to stay there. He stayed there for a year

“The thing about it was Tony – although he wasn’t an angel, he was a disrupted child, these days might be diagnosed with ADHD – he never ever lied and he swore to me that he never tried to set fire to anything.

“It was just something I was told and now I wonder – hindsight is a great thing – I wonder if they said it to keep him there because they saw the potential.

“We only spoke about it once because Tony was ashamed because he thought it was his fault.

“The reason I contacted the survivors’ network was I told Tony to do it initially but he couldn’t face it, but unfortunately he died in the meantime.

“I feel his son who had just started to build a relationship with him, he should be the person to benefit if there is any benefit of it, because he missed out on so much growing up.”

Tony had started to build a relationship with his son in the past six years but Tony died on March 14 last year at the age of 53. It would have been his birthday today (Friday). A funeral was held during the lockdown with just 10 family ­members present.

Ms Tyrrell-Holt said: “I went to register his death at Wood Green and I did it through a closed door – they were feeding it through a crack through a door.”

Tony lived in Finsbury Park for the past 10 years and enjoyed going on walks in the park with Terry and visiting his grandchildren.

Ms Tyrrell-Holt said: “It is not hundreds and hundreds. They are talking about eight families who could be left without feeling their child’s life is not totally worthless.”

Alison Millar and Andrew Lord of Leigh Day have represented the Islington Survivors ­Network since 2017.

Ms Millar, head of the abuse team at Leigh Day, said:“This will not ­prevent survivors who may have civil claims for compensation asserting their rights.

“It is disappointing that the significant number of children who suffered abuse in Islington foster placements in particular are excluded from this scheme.

“We also want to hear from the council the mechanics of and timescales for implementation of the scheme and how it will be made accessible to survivors in a way that meets the stated aim of avoiding re-traumatisation.”

She added: “We are pleased that Islington Council is introducing a scheme to provide financial acknowledgment to some survivors of the Islington children’s homes scandal; this complements the existing support and trauma ­services for survivors funded by the council.”

Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, leader of Islington Council, said: “The length of time it has taken to create this very complex scheme is already too much, and we did not want to delay it further.

“I personally have found the delays very frustrating, so I cannot imagine what it is like for people who suffered abuse and have been waiting for the scheme to be created. We wanted to offer a support payment to children’s home survivors as soon as we could.”

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