Children’s homes scandal: care abuse victims to get payout

Up to 2,000 survivors could eligible for ‘Support Payment Scheme’

Friday, 12th March 2021 — By Calum Fraser

Dr Liz Davies

Dr Liz Davies of the Islington Survivors Network group

SURVIVORS who suffered sexual, physical and mental abuse while in Islington Council’s care are set to receive a compensation payment more than two decades after the children’s homes scandal was first exposed.

It could involve as many as 2,000 individuals who were abused over a 30-year period, according to Town Hall estimates.

It is understood to be the first time in British history that such a scheme has been proposed. The payments made will be up to £8,000.

The Islington Survivors Network (ISN), an advocacy group for those who were abused in care, have broadly welcomed the plans but have questioned why the families of abuse victims who have since died will not be allowed to access the payments.

Dr Liz Davies, a former council social worker who blew the whistle on the scandal and helped set up ISN, said: “There are loads of people who have died. There are families out there who should have some route to apply. It’s the least they could get for all their suffering.”

She added: “We welcome in principle the fact that the proposed ‘Support Payment Scheme’ is a further acknowledgement by Islington of the prolific abuse of children in the care of the council.”

Dr Davies and the roughly 200 survivors that ISN represents have campaigned for years to force the council to set up a payment scheme.

It will be considered at an executive meeting next Thursday, and is set to cover children who were in council care homes between 1965 and 1995.

Town Hall leader, Cllr Richard Watts, has previously apologised to the survivors, describing it as “the darkest chapter in the council’s history”, and adding that there was “systematic failure all the way through the council through all those years”.

To access the £8,000 payment, claimants will have to make an application to the council proving that they were placed in a care home and suffered abuse there.

Survivors are still able to pursue the Town Hall through a civil legal claim. Last summer one woman was awarded £35,000 in compensation after she was sexually abused by members of staff and other children at Gisburne House – a large children’s home run by Islington Council in Watford.

The council hope the Support Payment Scheme will allow some victims to get some kind of payment without “the need to relive past trauma” in court.

However, ISN is concerned that the council is not covering children who suffered “neglect” or those who were placed in foster homes, boarding schools, secure units and care homes not run by the Town Hall.

Leigh Day Solicitors’ Alison Millar, who is representing ISN, said: “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.”

Apart from the Support Payment Scheme, the Town Hall considered a “full redress scheme” similar to that being implemented in Lambeth where thousands of children were sexually and physically assaulted over a period dating back decades further.

In Lambeth, victims can receive up to £125,000 in compensation.

Islington’s council officers have recommended that this idea is rejected as it is “unaffordable”.

The Town Hall also intends to establish a database containing information on “known perpetrators”.

A consultation on the Support Payment Scheme will run for roughly two months, with the final proposals set to be implemented in September.

In a statement, Islington Council said: “The council will consult with survivors, the Islington Survivors Network (ISN) and other key stakeholders on the proposed scheme, and any comments or suggestions will be carefully considered before the scheme is finalised.

“The leader of the council has apologised to victims of child abuse in Islington care homes for the council’s past failings. The council today is a very different organisation from in the 1960s-1990s, and today protecting children from harm is its top priority.”

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