Jimmy Saville, Rochdale, Operation Pallial. These names and many more have become familiar to all of us who read the papers, but for the survivors of abuse which took place in children’s care homes, hearing these names can bring back horrific, painful memories which cannot be erased.
The perpetrators leave these children for dead; if not physically, then emotionally. Victims become shells of the people they could have been; forever scared of making intimate connections with other human beings.
Children are our most vulnerable members of society and those who enter care homes need even greater protection, given that approximately 60% are placed in care because of abuse and/or neglect occurring in their home.
So why are children in care homes so prone to abuse? How do paedophiles and groomers manage to access these children, and what is being done to prosecute the guilty and compensate the victims?
Child Abuse – An Age Old Problem
Children suffering abuse in care homes is unfortunately nothing new. In 1975 two small boys were playing near a disused sewage tank in Tuam, County Galway. They broke open a concrete slab which appeared to be covering something and discovered a tomb full of tiny skeletons underneath. A local priest said prayers on the site and it was recovered and forgotten, until 2012, when following an investigation, the bodies of nearly 800 little souls who died between 1925 and 1961 were discovered, apparently (as it is yet to be proved) buried in the sewage tank. They had come from a mother and baby home run by Bon Secours nuns. Reports from as far back as the 1940s state that the children residing in the care home suffered from malnutrition and that it was horribly overcrowded.
A judicial investigation into the deaths of the children, aged between two days and nine years old is continuing to this day.
Many compensation claims for care home abuse date back a number of years because it can take decades for victims to gather the courage to come forward and demand accountability from their abusers.
Operation Pallial, the official name of an ongoing investigation into historic abuse claims in North Wales between 1953 and 1995, is believed to be investigating 28 children’s care homes in the area and hundreds of allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
The reasons why children in care are vulnerable to abuse are complex; therefore it is impossible to provide a definitive answer. However, factors such as:
- emotional vulnerability and low self-esteem due to previous abuse;
- little or no interest in the children’s lives from a trusted, caring adult; and
- behaviour and learning difficulties
all provide abusers and sexual predators with fertile grounds to exploit their victims.
Easy Access to Children in Care
Jimmy Saville knew exactly how to manipulate his way into children’s care homes and hospitals. For over five decades he charmed senior staff while systematically sexually abusing vulnerable children in lifts, in hospital corridors and on off-site visits. At Broadmoor, a high-security mental health hospital, he was given keys to supposedly secure wards within weeks of his first visit.
Following the Rotherham sexual abuse scandal, where a group of men groomed young women in care and then sexually abused them, calls have been made for the local authority responsible for the Woodview Children's Home to be investigated after an Ofsted report found the girls were not kept safe and were put at risk of sexual exploitation.
Although these high-profile examples capture the media’s attention, in most cases abusers access children in care by simply by gaining employment within the care homes themselves. Unlike today, in the past people who chose to work with children were not subject to vigorous DBS checks and children’s voices and concerns were not so readily listened to. This created an ideal environment for sexual predators to have unlimited access to vulnerable children.
Moving forward – victims voices finally being heard
In February 2015, New Zealand High Court Judge, Lowell Goddard was named as the head of a new inquiry into historical child sex abuse in England and Wales.
The statutory inquiry has been given considerable powers; for example, Justice Goddard will have the ability to compel witnesses to attend and give both oral and documentary evidence.
More victims are coming forward to demand compensation for the abuse they suffered in children’s care homes. In 2014, it was revealed that 26 former residents of a Nottingham based children’s care home were awarded a total of £250,000 in compensation from Nottingham City Council for abuse suffered as far back as the 1960s.
Monetary compensation can never replace a stolen childhood; however, it can provide victims with a sense of justice and power, so long denied to them. It can also help fund counselling and other abuse survivor programmes to help those affected begin to rebuild their shattered lives.
If you have been a victim of child abuse in either a church or local authority run children’s care home our personal injury team, led by Malcolm Underhill, has the expertise and knowledge to advise and represent you. We have successfully recovered compensation for many clients in similar situations and understand the sensitivity and empathy required in such cases.
To talk about how we might be able to help, please phone us on 0333 123 9099, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our contact form. Any discussions you have with us will be in the strictest of confidence.