How the abuse victims of the 1950s have missed out on support system

Survivor of care scandal felt like ‘a piece of meat’ as child, and now feels let down once again

Saturday, 25th June — By Anna Lamche

FOR those in Islington’s childcare system before 1966, the “worst chapter” in the borough’s history has not yet drawn to a close, a man who suffered child abuse during the 1950s warned this week.

The council’s recently-launched scheme, which offers a £10,000 “support payment” to every survivor of the scandal, is open to anyone who suffered abuse between 1966 and 1995. But those whose abuse took place before 1966 are not eligible for the payment.

This is because, before 1966, London County Council (LCC) ran Islington’s childcare service. The London Borough of Islington was created in 1965, becoming responsible for the area’s childcare system the following year. This week, John*, 72, who was in Islington’s care system between 1950 and 1965, has decided to tell his story publicly.

A committed campaigner for justice with the Islington Survivors Network (ISN), he hopes to highlight the “unfairness” of his exclusion from the current support payment scheme. John was born in Holloway Prison in 1950. He remained with his mother for roughly eight months before being taken into Islington’s care system.

Throughout his childhood he was moved between abusive children’s homes, and foster care placements. At all times, John’s care was overseen by “childcare officers” based in 75 Mildmay Park, N1. In the 1950s he spent several years in Langley House, a care home where Islington children were placed, based in South Ockendon, Essex.

ISN recognises this address, open between 1952 and 1973, as a home in which abuse took place. John escaped Islington’s system aged just 15. “My life took off from there,” he said. As far as John is concerned, Islington Council should take responsibility for the abuse he suffered as an Islington child.

“They should man up and take their responsibilities seriously, at least pay some form of compensation to the people they hurt,” he said. “It’s not just me – all of them.”

John’s childhood abuse has cast a long shadow into his adult life.

“Any abuse, at that age, through your childhood – you remember all your life,” he said. “I used to have serious flashbacks to what happened until I was about 35. I feel I was completely and utterly used as just a piece of meat.

“They reckon 90 per cent of what you learn in life you’ve learned before you’re ten. So it never goes away. Some days what happened is quite vivid. Other times you suppress them.”

John said he was “furious” when he discovered he could not apply for the council’s scheme. “

They need to be brought to some sort of justice, or accounta­bility,” he said. ISN co-ordinator Liz Davies said: “This was supposed to be a goodwill gesture by Islington Council, having fully acknowledged the severe abuse that children suffered, going right back to the 50s. They’ve acknowledged that this abuse took place.

“Why on earth would they not be flexible in their approach, and honour their responsibility to the few [remaining] survivors who were in care during the 50s and early 60s? John came to Islington Survivors quite early on, and has been campaigning continually to get some justice.”

An Islington Council spokesperson said: “We’re deeply sorry for the council’s past failure to protect vulnerable children in its children’s homes, which was the worst chapter in this council’s history. All abuse is absolutely and equally legitimate and valid.

“The Islington Support Payment Scheme is open to applications from people affected by abuse while placed by Islington Council in its children’s homes between 1966 and 1995. The scheme was specifically designed for survivors who experienced abuse when placed by Islington Council in its children’s homes. It is legally and financially complex, and has taken a long period of time to develop.

“As set out in the report to Executive in October 2021, exploring the viability of further extending the scheme would have led to significant delays in opening the scheme to applications.”

* Last name withheld to preserve anonymity.

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