Editor’s comment: Survivors’ problems are council’s too

Jonathon 'JJ' McPhillips was murdered in 2017. Picture: MICHELLE McPHILLIPS

Jonathon 'JJ' McPhillips was murdered in 2017. Picture: MICHELLE McPHILLIPS - Credit: Archant

On any newsdesk there are stories you will find yourself covering again and again as they develop – long-running campaigns, political issues, changes to housing and health.

And while part of the value of local news is following a story through to its conclusion instead of arriving one day and packing up the next like a national paper might do, there are some stories I wish we weren't still reporting on.

One of those is the murder of JJ McPhillips in February 2017, whose killer should have been brought to justice long ago. Instead, his grieving mother is still fighting for answers two and a half years on, and no one has been convicted for the fatal stabbing of her only child.

Another is the continued struggle faced by survivors of child abuse in Islington's kids homes to access the help they need - either the long-promised redress scheme that still isn't operational, or the trauma and housing services set up for victims over the last couple of years thanks largely to the tireless campaign work of Dr Liz Davies and the Islington Survivors Network.

These services are needed because, as our special investigations series showed in 2017, those who endured abuse in Islington's care system are still haunted by its effects. They have problems with their mental health; many struggle to hold down housing and jobs, or have difficulties with trust and personal relationships. In some cases the knowledge that no one senior at the council was ever truly held accountable has left them feeling worthless and angry. I will not presume to speak for them in any detail as they have told their own stories articulately in these pages.

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There is a compelling argument that the struggle Yewande Ogunnaike now faces - that of finding care for her severely disabled son so she can access those council services - is also a product of her abuse, and should therefore be born by Islington as part of its admission of culpability. She lays the blame for her situation at Islington's door, and who has the right to tell her otherwise?

It is not as simple as throwing money at the problem. But Islington must be responsible for ensuring survivors can access its support services - whether by meeting their costs or by taking responsibility for other obstacles.

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