Islington Foster Care

The Support Payment Scheme does not include payments for survivors who were in Islington foster placements. ISN have extensive evidence of abuse of children in foster placements. The survivors of abuse in foster ‘care’ must be included in the scheme and the severe harm many experienced, often for most of their childhood, must be recognised and acknowledged in the same way as for those abused in the children’s homes.

Summary

56 survivors have come forward to ISN who were in Islington foster placements – placed by Islington Council. These span the years from the 60s onwards and with few exceptions (where they speak of caring and appropriate placements), the majority of survivors provide distressing testimony of ongoing violence. sexual abuse, neglect and emotional harm.

The quotes below are from some of ISN survivors with some alterations made for confidentiality reasons. We have not included details of sexual abuse which was regular and brutal in many of the homes. Sometimes abuse was from other children in the foster home with the foster parents failing to protect. We have also included evidence of extensive racism but have not repeated the many racist terms and names experienced by these children on a daily basis in foster homes, schools and local areas – particularly in the white counties outside London.

There are accounts of good, caring and supportive relationships with foster carers which have been very important to survivors. A number of these carers have continued to keep in contact and have provided support over many years. These few carers are sadly the exceptions.

‘I had years of physical and sexual abuse and eventually ran away’

‘I stole a coat and hat to be warm’

‘If you wet the bed you had to sleep in the bath’

‘We had to sit on the toilet all night’

‘She made us sit in the corner and beat us’

‘She locked us in our rooms at night so we couldn’t go to the toilet’

‘All our clothes were hand-me-downs – but she got clothing money’

‘Every day we got the slipper’

‘The foster father was ex-army. We were sexually, physically and emotionally abused’

‘He would end up screaming outside the house’ ( Social worker’s record)

‘I told the foster mother to give him physical attention – to sit him on her knee’ (Social worker’s record)

I was emotionally, physically abused and neglected in foster care’

‘They were very religious and hit me with a stick’

‘ The neighbours must have heard the screams’

‘Mr and Mrs X have a rigid and old fashioned approach to the children’ (Social worker’s record)

‘ They hit us with kitchen pans’

‘We were told if we complained we would be sent to a children’s home’

‘It was emotional abuse. They exploited us for money’

‘They got money for birthday presents and holidays but we never saw any of it’

‘There was no hot food in the evening’

‘I ate mud and drank from puddles’

‘I ate moss and grass when I was hungry’

‘The whole house stank – it took me a week to get the smell out of my clothes’ (Social worker’s record)

‘The carer has no previous experience of caring for a child’ (Social worker’s record)

Unlike being in a children’s home, children in foster care were more isolated and alone with no-one to turn to. ISN have read many accounts of social workers conducting their regular required visits and reviews but spending time with the foster carers not the child. The file records in many instances confirm this approach and describe jolly visits where they have tea and witness a happy family atmosphere – the rule of optimism as ever in evidence as they persuaded themselves all was well for the child the authority had corporate responsibility for.

It seemed common practice for the foster carers to go on holiday without the children and for the social worker to agree to temporary placement with the carer’s relatives. This disgraceful practice left the children feeling abandoned and uncared for.

Some social workers saw the child in the presence of the carer but often the child was sent upstairs to their room or would be out when the social worker visited. Survivors speak about being silenced because they had no opportunity with the social worker on their own to tell them what was happening. Those who were taken out by a social worker for a meal or an outing would not want to destroy a rare happy time by speaking about abuse. The fact they were observed to eat very well never seemed to raise questions about whether they were being left hungry in the placement. What does it take for a social worker to be trained to observe & notice indicators of abuse, see the child on their own outside the foster home, listen to direct allegations about abuse and to listen to their intuitive feelings and act to protect? There are of course some social workers who did just that but they were the exceptions. Most were child-blaming – pathologising and labelling the children for behaviour which was the child’s reaction to the abuse.

‘I told the social worker repeatedly about abuse – she said I was attention-seeking’

‘When the social workers came the foster father stopped beating us so there were no bruises’

‘They refused to let the social worker visit or take us out’

‘All the time I was there he clung to me’ (Social worker’s record)

‘She looked pale and drawn today – quite unwell’ ( Social worker’s record)

‘The children acted out and are difficult through wetting the bed, stealing and running away’ (Social worker’s record)

There are many accounts of black children being placed with white foster families outside London. Racism was endemic within the placements but also in the local community and at school. Some children were exploited as house slaves made to care for younger children and do housework. It was very unusual for the children to have any contact with their families, little effort was made to maintain contact or enable visits. There are exceptions : A social worker who regularly collected the child and drove long distances to take her to visit her mother in psychiatric hospital and another who took the children to see their father in prison. There is almost no evidence at all of life story work or recognition and understanding of the needs of black children in care.

‘She poured bleach on herself to be white’

‘He scratched his skin and put on powder to try and be white’

‘The whole family were racist’

‘We were treated as inferior – we ate separately’

‘We had to care for the younger disabled foster children ‘

‘We were 2 black slave girls’

‘I was a ‘ghost’ in the house’

‘It was a white foster home’

‘She was confused about her colour and asked why she had brown skin’ (Social worker’s record)

‘They were extremely racist and gave me no chance to speak to the social worker on my own

‘I was in a white only village – the teacher asked what we thought about black people’

‘The council had no understanding of my ethnic background’

‘She put butter on our hair’

‘I still lack understanding of my true identity’

‘I am the only black person these children see’ (Social worker’s record)

Policy

From 1975 onwards, Islington planned to drastically reduce the number of children in children’s homes and move towards an increase in fostering. A review of services for children was held in 1977. It is in this context that ISN have learnt of 4 children’s home managers who took children from long stay homes to a new kind of pseudo-fostering arrangement referred to by the senior manager Clifford Heap as an ‘experiment’. As one aspect of promoting this fostering agenda a new post of an adoption and fostering officer was created in 1975.

‘One of the major reasons for children being taken into care is through the short term illness of a parent or guardian. The admission of a child into care in these and other circumstances could be avoided by a more extensive system of fostering. The newly appointed adoption and fostering officer is looking into ways including short term fostering of expanding and increasing the number of fostering homes so that in this way a significant impact may be made upon the number of children who have to be taken into and kept in residential care.’ Islington Council Flat Pack 1975 p15

Council minutes 15.11.77

The changing pattern of children’s home accommodation: ‘Members will know that a main area for our programme plan investigation for 1977/8 was the extent to which care for children could further be switched from residential to community provision. Our efforts in increasing the community care of children had the effect of a falling child population have produced a considerable reduction in the number of children in residential care.’ (Council minutes 13.3.77)

‘The aim should be for sufficient independent accommodation to be available for those who need permanent accommodation. However there is a need for shorter term accommodation where young people may require temporary support or from where a minority may be referred to some kind of care on a longer term basis.’ (Council minutes 15.11.77) . The ‘experiments’ were part of the plan for provision of permanent accommodation.

A summary of various council statistics shows that this policy was implemented.

ISN compilation from various Council minutes

Fostering experiments

ISN have 5 examples of a project steered by Clifford Heap, who was Assistant Director of Social Services (Day and Residential Establishments Division), which led to former managers of children’s homes being allowed to foster children. It is not clear in all these situations if the former managers were assessed as foster carers but the evidence ISN have would suggest not. What was the status of these arrangements? How were they approved? What were the financial arrangements? How were the children chosen? What became of the properties?

ISN have so many questions about these placements which posed as ‘families’ and where the children called the former managers ‘Mum or Dad’ – yet the homes also posed as pseudo group foster placements. They were not defined as children’s homes perhaps to avoid legal regulation. It is the view of ISN that these strange anomalies in child care require full investigation. ISN consider that these placements were not set up in the interests of the children who were placed there.

As the policy shift forced closures of residential homes the former managers were given children to ‘foster’ by a special arrangement for those who were seen to need longer term care. There is an example in council minutes (29.3.77) of finance being made available to support the adaptation of properties for this purpose – in this instance Solna Road.

Provision of funds – capital transactions: Social Services:

Widbury £16,000  adaptations

Various children’s homes improvement of accommodation including replacement of Solna Road Childrens Home  1977-8     16,000

1978-9    150,000

1979-80    50,000

total         216,000

(Council minutes 29.3.77)

Clifford Heap

Clifford Heap was the architect of these experimental schemes.

Between 1952 and 1964, Heap was Superintendent of the Lambeth run Shirley Oaks children’s home and later from 1964-1970, he was the Superintendent of Stamford House Secure Unit (much used by Islington)

Council minutes 29.7.80

Concerns raised about Clifford Heap and his role in Islington

Shirley Oaks Survivors Association alerted Sarah Morgan QC to their concerns about Heap and the connections between Lambeth and Islington abuse networks.

 “I received in response to the call for information a submission drawing my attention to the fact that Clifford Heap, who had been Superintendent of Shirley Oaks Children’s Home, was later 1971-80 an Assistant Director in Islington. The same submission expressed certainty that there had been organised crime networks exploiting children across the authorities during the time of this Review.

Sarah Morgan QC Review 2018:16.21

60 Hare Street Springs

Council minutes: 28.1.1980

ISN have not heard from survivors of this unusual child care arrangement.

4 Hugo Road, London N19

‘Her rules and regulations were quite evil.’ (Islington Survivor)

‘Two children were not happy living with Mrs Tovey as they were the youngest.’ (Islington Survivor

‘They had managed to get a big house in Tufnell Park by claiming to want to foster all of us.’ (Bobby Martin)

From 1968 Margaret Tovey former manager of Elwood Street took groups of children from Elwood Street, including Bobby Martin, to this house. In 1975 she took 7 children from Elwood Street. Mrs Tovey was unmarried and died in November 1995. ISN do not know the ethnic origin of the children but Bobby’s remark ‘Was I too black?’ has to tell its own story of life in this placement as experienced by black and ethnic minority children.

The house was was owned by Islington but had various occupants over the years.

In 1975 Tovey would have been about age 59 years. Bobby Martin wrote about this placement in notes he gave to ISN.

‘At this point things had changed for me at the children’s home [1 Elwood Street]. I was now no longer there. I had very recently been fostered. The woman who had been in charge of the home I had been in for almost the last 7-8 years had decided to foster myself and 3 others from the home. She had asked us individually if we wanted to be fostered by her or stay at the home as she was resigning from the job. I wasn’t sure, so I asked her if she wanted me. She said yes. This made me feel good. It made me feel wanted like I was part of something. About 2 weeks after being expelled from school, all of us from the foster home went to a house warming party [of a staff member from Elwood St] in Homerton, Hackney….. Up to this day I don’t remember what happened. All I remember is arriving at the house. However when I woke up I was to have one of the biggest surprises of my young life. I awoke in very familiar surroundings. Colours, shapes and smells that I had grown used to over years. But this should not have been happening. How did I get here? Why was I here? What was going on? None of these questions were ever answered all I knew was that I was back. Back in “that home”. Back at 1 Elwood St. The foster career didn’t want me. Was I too Black? Was I means to their ends? They had managed to get a big house in Tufnell Park by claiming to want to foster all of us.’

ISN survivors speak of Mrs Tovey having 3 ‘batches’ of children and have given the names of 14 children,7 girls and 7 boys who are remembered by survivors as having lived there. From the information ISN have some were siblings and some stayed until they were aged 16 years Mrs Tovey’s story is unclear as to whether she was fostering and managing Elwood Street at some of the same time. One survivor wrote that she had no choice but to move from Elwood Street to Mrs Tovey’s house. She ran away age only 14 yrs, slept on her family’s floor and then rented a room.

78 Lammasmead, Wormley, Hertfordshire EN10 6HY

78 Lammasmead, Wormley

In 2017 a sales record lists the property as consisting of:

  • 4 bedrooms
  • 2 bathrooms
  • 1 reception room
  • Freehold terraced house

When I first met him he had half a dozen kids – well adults by then – from the Children’s Home sharing his flat because they had nowhere to go when they turned 18′ – a local man who writes about Gentle’s community involvements and the funeral attended by 650 local people. NB: the children were younger than 18.

Richard Clifford Gentle, former Superintendent of New Park House children’s home in Cuffley, bought a house close to Cuffley and took some of the older children (ages 15-18) from New Park House with him to live there. ISN are unsure how many children lived there but have names of about 9 – 5 boys and 4 girls. This was an extraordinary arrangement particularly as New Park House had closed in 1984 suddenly following allegations made by young people about abuse. It is not known if these were investigated.

ISN are informed by survivors that there seemed to be no management oversight of the children in Wormley. There were no reviews held about the children there or social work visits. Gentle built himself a flat in the garage at Wormley. On one survivor’s file the house was described as a semi-independent unit. In 1989 a social worker referred one of the boys at Wormley for housing under the Adolescent Quota to the Principal Assistant Children and Families. ISN realise that Islington managers knew very well about this very unusual arrangement.

Richard Clifford Gentle was born 26.12.45 and died in 2001. He was born in Cuffley and was established in the local community running the local youth club. In the 80s, he had been manager of Gisburne House, Watford, standing in for a manager who had left suddenly following allegations of abuse. From the information ISN have available, he was manager of New Park House, Cuffley an Islington children’s home from 1969 – 1983. He also worked for a computer firm Nashbray Ltd based in Islington (1985-1991) at Flat 17 Sherwood, Penton Rise WC1X 9EG. Locals describe him as a printer by trade. He was a driver for the company, a local taxi driver and also ran local fish stalls. He went early in the mornings to Billingsgate market to collect the fish. Some survivors remember him smelling strongly of fish.

35 Solna Road, Winchmore Hill, N21

35 Solna Road (previously Homeleigh nursery)

Ms X was manager of 103 Park Avenue from 1969 (Deputy Superintendent). She became Superintendent in 1975 after the retirement of Miss Rowlands. In 1978 the home closed and in April 1978 Ms X took over the care of 5 children from the home. 3 boys and 2 girls. The youngest boy was disabled. Solna Road closed in 1987 and then Ms X unusually took one of the children with her to live with her in the north of England where he stayed until 2012. Solna Road was two houses which had previously been the Islington nursery Holmleigh. Ms X and the 5 children lived in one of the houses.

Clifford Heap chaired a meeting on 24.11.77 where he proposed Ms X to be a professional foster carer for 5 of the Park Avenue children. The children would have one social worker based centrally at Islington Park Street offices instead of each having their own social worker from their local neighbourhoods. Some social workers asked whether Ms X would manage the care of this specific group of children – which included adolescents – on her own.

In 1980, this placement was described at a social work meeting as ‘a special foster home’ where the financial arrangements had not been worked out. It was said that the property was not prepared when Ms X moved in with the children. The fostering team responded to social worker’s questions about the placement assessment process and were informed that, although two references had been obtained, the Department had made the decision in advance wishing to close the children’s home she was running. One of the male residential staff from Park Avenue moved in for 3 months as a guest of Ms X.

Collins Meadow

In 1981 the above document refers to Collins Meadow closure and how it was hoped that of the 5 children remaining in the home 2 would go to specialist educational facilities and 3 would move with their housemother to Stevenage. ISN have no further information about this.

The BASIC ‘carers’ scheme: Bail Accommodation Support In the Community)
Islington Gazette: 6.2.1992

BASIC was an Islington Council scheme for families and single male carers which began in 1992. Whether it was based on a Barnardo’s scheme for single male fostering in London and the South East, which had been used by Islington Social Services, is not known. It involved appointing the carers to accommodate boys when, after appearing in court, they would otherwise have been placed in custody. Some LBI staff in the 90s raised concerns because the scheme seemed to avoid regulation and assessment of the carers. The placement lasted 3-8 weeks which was said to avoid Boarding Out arrangements. The role was not defined as a parenting role and was differentiated from being a foster parent which would have required an assessment of suitability. ISN have heard from several survivors who as boys were placed within this scheme.

Andrew Davis who was a Court Officer carried out the training for the programme. He had been an Islington residential children’s home manager at 14 Conewood Street in the 70s and 80 Highbury New Park in the 80s leaving in 1990 to become Court Officer.) He was exposed in the media in 1995 as stating pro-paedophile views when assessed by Westminster Council following them being alerted about concerns by the White Inquiry. He died shortly after retirement.

Andrew Davis – Court Officer and Residential Social Worker

Today‘ newspaper on 9.9.95 ran extensive coverage of an interview with Davis where he said that adult sex with children was acceptable and that a child of 8 years could, in his opinion, consent to sex with an adult.

Today, 09. 08. 1995 (and also extracts below)
The Independent, August 1995
Today, 10.08.1995
Today, 10.08.1995 (continued)
Today, 12.08.1995
Private Eye, 17.08.1995
Eye0995
Private Eye Sept 1995
Today, 13.11.1995
‘Pension at 44 for child abuse inquiry man’

Evening Standard, 19th January 1996

by Stewart Payne & Eileen Fairweather

A COUNCIL youth worker exposed in an Evening Standard investigation into child abuse has been retired on a full pension.

 Andrew Davis, 44, who admitted he saw nothing wrong in having sex with young children, is suffering mental illness brought on by an inquiry into the suitability of his working with young people and is now deemed “permanently unfit for work”.

 His employers have been unable to test allegations against him because of his condition and say they have no choice but to give him a full pension.

 Mr Davis first came under scrutiny when the Evening Standard conducted an investigation into child care abuses in Islington.

 A male social worker claimed he had been sexually assaulted by Mr Davis, who is gay. The newspaper passed details onto an official inquiry set up in the wake of the allegations, and Mr Davis was traced to new employers, Westminster Council, where he was working with vulnerable young offenders.

 Soon after, Mr Davis complained of stress and Westminster put him on paid sick leave while it conducted an inquiry into his past employment at Islington.

 He is now said to be suffering an “acute stress reaction” brought on by the allegations made against him and the inquiry cannot be concluded. He will now receive a full pension for the rest of his working life.

 The decision follows uproar in August when it emerged he was working despite being named in a confidential section of the Ian White report on child sex abuse within Islington council.

 The White report investigated Evening Standard claims that children in Islington’s care were preyed on by paedophiles working for the local authority and in the community at large. The newspaper alleged that a dogma-ridden management in the Labour-controlled borough meant that cases of abuse were not properly investigated, particularly if they concerned gays, and those under suspicion were able to take up posts elsewhere.

 This was confirmed by the report, which concluded children could still be at risk.

 Mr Davis joined Westminster three years ago with a good reference. Yet the Islington agency social worker had reported the alleged assault at a children’s home where they both worked to his chiefs.