ISN News

Survivors of abuse in Islington children’s homes to receive support payments

Islington Gazette, 22nd March 2021

People who suffered emotional, physical and sexual abuse in the council’s children’s homes between 1966 and 1995 will be able to access a support payment scheme approved by the Town Hall last week.

It will enable abuse survivors to receive financial support without having to bring a claim for compensation, with the aim of avoiding the risk of re-traumatisation because of lengthy processes.

Eligible survivors will get £8,000 each, with a consultation on the scheme set to take place with stakeholders including the Islington Survivors Network (ISN).

The plans have been “broadly welcomed” by the ISN, which has long campaigned for justice for survivors of child abuse in the council’s children’s homes and foster placement.

A spokesperson for the network said it would be pressing the council to address the extension of the scheme to include those subjected to neglect, those who suffered harassment or violence from other residents, those placed in non-Islington homes or foster homes, and the families of those who have died while waiting for the scheme to be announced.

They added: “The general feeling is that this will get a payment to a lot of survivors who otherwise would have nothing.” 

Council leader Cllr Richard Watts was questioned by survivors during the meeting at which the scheme was approved.

One attendee spoke on behalf of a survivor who was in a children’s home for a number of years along with two siblings, one of whom has committed suicide.

Watts was asked: “Will this scheme include people who have committed suicide, for the family? Because they did not survive, and in some ways they are worse off than the people who did survive.”

He replied: “It is not proposed at the moment that the scheme does cover that. That is an issue that has already been raised with us by the ISN and others as well, so clearly I would urge you to make a submission to the consultation about that.”

The council leader repeated his apology to victims of child abuse in Islington care homes for the past failings of the local authority, calling what had happened the “darkest chapter” in its history.

The consultation will run for six weeks until April.

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.”

Press release from ISN and Leigh Day solicitors

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.”

Islington Council Survivor Support Payment Scheme

10th March: Islington Council announced a proposal for a Non-Recent Child Abuse Support Payment Scheme

Islington Council have provided 5 documents relating to this proposed scheme

The Scheme is for survivors who ‘suffered emotional. physical and sexual abuse whist resident in the council’s children’s homes from 1966-1995. The proposal will enable survivors to receive a financial support payment without having to bring a civil compensation claim. It has been designed to enable eligible applicants to receive a payment more quickly than having to go through the trauma of the lengthy civil compensation claims process’

Islington Survivor Network received these documents on 10th March, held an initial meeting with council officers and consulted ISN Directors and our legal team at Leigh Day solicitors. The proposed scheme will be presented at the Council Executive meeting on 18th March and is open to consultation over the next 6 weeks. ISN will of course respond in detail to the proposals. This is the first scheme of its kind and is different from the redress scheme which ISN proposed over 3 years ago based on the Lambeth scheme. Since that time ISN has continually campaigned on this issue on behalf of over 200 survivors.

We broadly welcome this new proposal which suggests payments of £8000 as a flat rate payment to survivors of abuse in Islington children’s homes. The proposal gives important recognition to survivors harmed in Islington’s care and restates the council leader’s apology in 2017, when he also admitted the council’s culpability.

In applying for payment, the survivor’s own account will be the key material used to establish that abuse took place – as well as having been a resident in an Islington children’s home. ISN know of 48 children’s homes and now await the publication of the council’s own list.

ISN have a number of key points to make as part of our submission to the consultation. In particular we will argue strongly for the inclusion of neglect as a category of abuse and the inclusion of survivors abused in Islington foster placements. We will also seek to clarify the suggested process of application for the scheme to ensure easy accessibility and sensitivity to all ISN survivors.

When the scheme is finalised, ISN will provide advocacy, at every stage of the process, for survivors wishing to apply for payment.

In 2017 the Islington Councfil Leader said:

‘This was the darkest chapter in the council’s history.’

‘There was systematic failure all the way through the council through all those years.’

We are desperately sorry – children were subjected to terrible physical and mental abuse.’

15.7.2020: Leigh Day solicitors press release

A Member of Islington Survivors Network successfully sues local authority for abuse in children’s home. Claire, not her real name, spent her childhood in living in care at Gisburne House – a large children’s home run by Islington Council in Watford.

Gisburne House, 95 Gammons Lane Watford, Hertfordshire ; The site of physical, sexual & psychological child abuse and neglect. ISN survivors and also former staff tell of a violent Pin Down regime which some reported to management. 54 survivors have come forward from this home – just one of 48 LBI childrens homes from the mid 60s to the 90s. (ISN image)

Claire, not her real name, spent her childhood in living in care at Gisburne House – a large children’s home run by Islington Council in Watford.

While there she was subjected to sexual abuse by members of staff and another child resident.

The Superintendent of the home, Geoffrey Wylde-Jones, now deceased, was one of those said to have committed a number of serious sexual assaults upon Claire.  

Other survivors of abuse have previously named him as a perpetrator.

23.4.85 Islington Council minutes show how Wylde Jones resigned on 31.1.84 from his position as Superintendant of Gisburne House. A 10 year reign of terror 1974-1984. Survivors cite him as also having worked in 4 other LBI children’s homes. (ISN image)

Islington Council initially sought to reject Claire’s claim, putting forward a repudiation.

Leigh Day solicitors pressed ahead with obtaining medical evidence and supportive witness evidence from former Islington social workers. Settlement was eventually agreed at £35,000 and Claire has also requested an individual apology from the Council.

Leigh Day is bringing compensation claims on behalf of a number of former care leavers of Islington’s children’s homes.

The law firm also represents Islington Survivors Network (ISN) in its fight to have a comprehensive redress scheme established for former Islington care leavers affected by the Council’s past failure to protect vulnerable children.

The Islington child abuse scandal was first exposed in the early 1990s in a series of reports by the Evening Standard. 

In September 2017, Cllr Richard Watts, the Leader of the Council, admitted that the local authority was culpable for abuse in its children’s homes and spoke about righting the wrongs of the past.  

Thanks to the efforts of ISN, support for their members was put in place by way of the Islington Survivors’ Trauma Service and Islington Survivors’ Support Services, however, as of yet, a full redress scheme has still not been established, meaning that for those members who wish to obtain individual recognition and / or redress then bringing a civil legal claim may be the only option. 

Islington Council has spoken of a “financial support scheme” being offered to survivors of abuse, but this has not yet been clarified or materialised.

An article in the Islington Gazette in July 2019 quoted Cllr Watts as saying that the scheme was “legally complex”. In a further article in the Islington Gazette in May 2020, Cllr Watts stated that they were working hard on a scheme and that he was himself “frustrated by how long it’s taken”.

Andrew Lord, associate solicitor in the abuse team at Leigh Day, said:

“Claire had to fight hard against the barriers put up in her legal claim. Whilst I am pleased that she will receive the compensation that she so rightly deserves, it is utter nonsense that she was put through the stress of such an adversarial process given what has been reported about abuse in Islington’s children’s homes and the public apology made by Islington Council.

“I would echo ISN’s call for Islington Council to promptly establish a redress scheme for survivors of Islington’s care system to provide a route to redress that is quicker, simpler and less re-traumatising for survivors. 

“Given its public admission of culpability, acknowledgement of past systemic failures, and its promises of financial support, the council’s delay in this regard is doing nothing to help survivors heal from their experiences in care.”

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Read a blog about Gisburne: The Horrors of Gisburne House

Report #6 Organised abuse the Islington evidence. Section on Gisburne House

Islington Gazette 3.11.17 Survivors accounts about Gisburne. How Gisburne House in Watford may hold key to abuse Inquiry … ‘superintendent Geoffrey Wylde-Jones allegedly led a military style regime where children were regularly manhandled’ ‘ I was really terrified. I felt I had no power there: no one cared’ ‘Wylde Jones was never prosecuted’ ‘Extreme neglect was the norm, children in a highly sexualised environment..’

1977 World in Action programme – Wylde Jones featured speaking about the ‘pioneering’ work of Gisburne House with young offenders – but Gisburne was a childrens home not a secure unit and also very young disabled children lived there as well as young teenage girls with their babies. The reasons and rationale for admission of a child to this home are unclear.

Survivor’s remember the Gisburne song – here is part of it;

Come to Gisburne
Come to Gisburne
It’s a place of misery
There’s a notice in the doorway
Saying ‘ Welcome it’s a treat’.
Take no notice
Take no notice
It’s a load of bloody lies
If it wasn’t for Jonesey
It would be a paradise
Build a bomfire
Build a bomfire
Put Jonesey on the top
Put the rest of them in the middle
And burn the bloody lot!