Islington Survivors Network: Reparations and access to full care records requested

Dr Liz Davies outside Islington Police Station N1 15.05.17.

Dr Liz Davies outside Islington Police Station N1 15.05.17. - Credit: Archant

Survivors of a horrific child abuse scandal in Islington’s kids’ homes met Cllr Richard Watts to discuss a redress scheme on Friday – and they expressed distress at still not being able to access their full care records.

Members of the Islington Survivors Network (ISN), who were raped and tortured by paedophiles between the 1970s and 1990s, met with the Islington Council leader to negotiate reparations.

The council is considering two proposals: a redress scheme similar to that meted out to survivors of child abuse in Lambeth, or a “humane compensation” plan.

The Lambeth Children’s Homes Redress Scheme is the first of its kind in the country, providing compensation to abuse survivors in the south London borough. It has come under fire from survivors’ groups, including in this newspaper, for its requirements for survivors to provide documentation that often doesn’t exist, and to carry out lengthy interviews with the authority that failed them.

It’s been a year since Islington Council accepted culpability for the historic abuse and apologised, and ISN members say progress since has been too slow.

Dr Liz Davies, the whistleblower who exposed the devastating scale of Islington’s child abuse in 1992 through the Evening Standard, said: “The meeting was productive but we still haven’t come forward much.

Dr Davies, who founded ISN, added: “It’s a strange term to call it ‘humane compensation’. Does that mean what they’re doing now is inhumane? It’s bizarre.”

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The ISN submitted its own redress scheme proposal in September 2017. But in August this year the network began crowdfunding legal costs for possible court action against the local authority, in case Islington rejects its demands.

Source 1, who like all survivors of sexual abuse has automatic lifetime anonymity, told the Gazette: “The impression I get is that they [the council] still don’t believe us.

“To me it’s still not about money, it’s about getting justice for the children.

“Some kids I grew up with have killed themselves because they couldn’t handle what has happened. Kids I grew up with are in prison, on drugs and sleeping on the streets.

“We need a definitive answer on whether or not they will provide a redress scheme now.”

Another ISN member, source 2, added: “Our life is shattered and now they’re making us jump through hoops to prove we were involved in the abuse.

“It’s like dealing with people-robots. [They] were playing lord and master over us in the office today – it’s really distressing.”

Cllr Richard Watts told the Gazette: “We’re very sorry for Islington’s past failure to protect vulnerable children in its care – the council today is a very different place, and protecting children from harm is our top priority.

“We are working with abuse survivors and [ISN] on a range of issues, and since last year we have put in place a package of support for survivors – this includes access to psychological support and counselling, personal advice on issues such as housing, access to benefits and individual support.”

He said the council will fund ISN for admin, casework, research and referrals to support services.

Cllr Watts added: “The council and its professional advisors are working on the detail of different options for a redress scheme.”

The council has paid survivors £2.1 million in compensation to date.

So far 150 people who were abused in Islington’s kids’ homes have come forward to ISN.

And some survivors say they’re having “huge difficulties” accessing their full care files, with documents “redacted” and “delivered after delays”.

Source 1 said: “Islington is still making it difficult for us to access our files, which is really unfair – we are vulnerable people.

“Survivors are being given a couple of sheets of paper, sanitised files, which should document our time from being babies to leaving the care system.

“If they have nothing to hide then why redact the documents?”

They added: “Some people who worked in the care system back then who understand the abuse are now willing to come forward.

“The burden of proof is on us. But how can a baby speak up for itself? How can we prove anything when files have been destroyed?”

A council spokesperson said the town hall is “committed to working with survivors to provide access to records”.

They said third party information cannot be released and is redacted, while many documents have historically been “destroyed or misplaced”.