Those familiar with the many of accounts of physical, sexual, emotional abuse, and neglect within Islington’s children's homes, foster homes, and adoptive homes between the 1970s and 1990s will know how seeking justice for the victims has been and continues to be an ongoing battle.
In September 2017, over forty years since the first cases of abuse (in 1975), Islington Council made an apology to the Islington Survivors Network (ISN), whose members include potentially thousands of people who were physically, psychologically and sexually abused by paedophiles in care homes across the borough. The council also announced they were making available a system to seek compensation and also to provide support with psychological counselling, housing, and additional benefits.
What happened in Islington Children’s Care Homes?
Between the 1970s and 1990s, an unknown number of children were subjected to sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and neglect in Islington’s children’s homes. However, the scale of the abuse only came to light in 1992. At the time, reports outlining the scale of the abuse, in the London Evening Standard in 1992, where dismissed by Islington Councillor, Margaret Hodge (later Dame Margaret Hodge) as "sensationalist piece of gutter journalism" (a comment she has since apologised for).
There are many accounts of abuse including claims of children being abused in private houses and care homes which were being used as under-age brothels, a paedophile ring, and dilapidated homes in which children lived in squalid and dangerous conditions.
Have victims of abuse in Islington’s Care Homes received justice?
£2.1m has been paid to victims. However, despite promises by Islington Council to provide greater levels of redress, no pay-outs have been made since this announcement, and victims have had problems accessing the support they were promised.
The founder of ISN, Dr Liz Davies, the whistleblower and social worker who originally exposed the true scale of the child abuse in Islington in the Evening Standard, stated that survivors “have all been waiting for the redress scheme….The impact is that some survivors are getting really depressed. We've had five attempted suicides, and the level of distress is definitely increasing as people are losing all hope." She also stated that the police have not made further progress on the criminal investigation of the abuse. Some perpetrators have been sentenced for their crimes, including Roy Caterer, a sports instructor, who was jailed in 1991 for seven years for abusing nine children.
In response to the question of compensation for victims, Islington leader Cllr Richard Watts said: "We're committed to supporting the survivors and have put in place a package of support. "We urge any survivors of abuse who need help and support to please get in touch, whether they have previously contacted us or not. We will do everything we can to help.” The councillor also stated “we are working on a proposal for a financial support scheme to go alongside the existing civil compensation available. This is legally complex, and we will update ISN when it has been developed further."
Victims of Islington child abuse left to fend for themselves
Many victims of the Islington child abuse and their families have been left to struggle with the aftermath of the damage done in their early years. It is well established that child abuse, whether physical, sexual, psychological, or neglect, can have profound ramifications for the well-being of victims for the remainder of their lives. Speaking to the Islington Gazette, the sister of one victim explained how her brother, and victims like him, were told they would receive the help they needed and that justice would be sought for the perpetrators. Instead, she states her brother “has relapsed and is stuck in a place in the middle of nowhere in an asbestos-ridden flat. He tried to hang himself at Christmas”.
The abuse suffered by children at the hands of those who were supposed to be in positions of care and responsibility has left many hundreds or even thousands of lives irreparably damaged. But the delays in providing redress and compensation to victims has only added to the wounds already inflicted. Once the true scale of the abuse was known, and promises made to help and compensate victims, the necessary resources and funds should have been made available without delay. If you or a loved one have been affected due to physical, psychological, sexual abuse or neglect as a child, whether in an Islington care institution or in another location, it is important you seek legal redress. Not only will you be able to access the services you need, but also pursue the financial compensation you deserve.
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