Council to help victims of town hall’s ‘darkest hour’, reports Ed Sheridan, Local Democracy Reporter
People who suffered emotional, physical and sexual abuse in Islington 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 ISN, which has long campaigned for justice for survivors of child abuse in the council’s children’s homes and foster placements.
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: “We have at last some communication going on, and an opportunity to do a consultation response, and hopefully this scheme can get rolled out, in perhaps a better shape than it is now, but they have done a good job, put a lot of things down, covered a lot of ground and we have something to work with.
“The general feeling is that this will get a payment to a lot of survivors who otherwise would have nothing.
“We have more than 1,000 children’s names who were in the 48 homes, and more than 1,000 staff names. We can draw on it when needed for the lawyers, police and survivors.”
Council leader Richard Watts was questioned by survivors during the meeting at which the scheme was approved. One asked if they would be eligible despite having migrated to another country, with Cllr Watts confirming that such issues would be worked through in the consultation.
Another 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.
Cllr 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.”
The council chief responded: “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 ISN and others as well, so clearly I would urge you to make a submission to the consultation about that and we will consider every suggestion to expand the scope of the scheme very carefully and in great detail.”
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.
Leigh Day partner Alison Millar, who represents ISN, said: “While 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.”
The consultation will run for six weeks through March and April.
Cllr Watts added: “Children placed in our care were subjected to terrible physical, sexual and mental abuse, which understandably has had a deeply traumatic effect on those who are now adults and continue to suffer.
“As leader of the council, I want to say again that we are deeply sorry for the council’s past failure to protect vulnerable children. Although I know the word ‘sorry’ feels inadequate, I offer this apology to every single person who has been scarred by the events of that terrible time.
“Today it is our duty as a council to do the right thing to try to address the failings of the past.”