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Islington Council foster carer breaks silence to blow whistle on “incorrect public statement”

PUBLISHED: 07:00 07 January 2020

Pam, a foster carer for Islington Council for decades, fought to correct the council's public statement on a sacked colleague. Picture: Polly Hancock

Pam, a foster carer for Islington Council for decades, fought to correct the council's public statement on a sacked colleague. Picture: Polly Hancock

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An ex-foster carer has broken her silence after 22 years to claim Islington Council issued a misleading statement about a sacked ex-colleague’s contact with children.

The foster carer looked after children up to age 10 in the borough until 1999 - and only once tried to adopt. Picture: Polly HancockThe foster carer looked after children up to age 10 in the borough until 1999 - and only once tried to adopt. Picture: Polly Hancock

The woman, who asked to be known as Pam, looked after dozens of youngsters from babyhood to age 10 between 1975 and 1999.

In the early 1990s she tried to adopt one of her charges, a young girl with learning difficulties who had been in her care for years.

Her pre-adoption assessment was handled by Islington social worker Jim Wroe, who was later named as having been instrumental in an international "cash for babies" scandal.

At the time, Islington Council head of children's services Hannah Miller incorrectly told the press Mr Wroe "had absolutely nothing to do with adoption services in this borough".

In 1993 Jim Wroe sent her a letter of introduction explaining he had been tasked with processing her adoption application.In 1993 Jim Wroe sent her a letter of introduction explaining he had been tasked with processing her adoption application.

But Pam knew he did - and made a formal complaint about what had been said.

For its part Islington Council recently told the Gazette that safeguarding policies had been "transformed" since the 1990s and protecting children from harm is now the top priority.

"I felt I was cold-shouldered," Pam told the Gazette, "and treated as a pain in the backside.

"After reading the statement saying Jim Wroe had nothing to do with adoption in Islington, I was disgusted and decided to complain.

A complaint was lodged with Islington Council but the local authority never publicly corrected the statemen. Picture:Ken MearsA complaint was lodged with Islington Council but the local authority never publicly corrected the statemen. Picture:Ken Mears

"I said an incorrect public statement had been made and I could prove it."

An investigator was brought in by LBI but left post after two years, and the council never publicly corrected the statement. In 1998 an independent social worker tasked with reviewing the complaint said the lack of a response "could result in a finding of maladministration" if brought to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Mr Wroe had contacted Pam in August 1993 on being asked to prepare a home study report as part of her application.

They were in contact for several years but, according to Pam's diary notes, he told her in July 1995 that he would not be able to manage her case anymore.

Dr Liz Davies of Islington Survivors' Network urged current and former staff to keep coming forward with concerns. Picture: Polly HancockDr Liz Davies of Islington Survivors' Network urged current and former staff to keep coming forward with concerns. Picture: Polly Hancock

In 1996 he was named in the BBC's The Cook Report as a key link in a "mail-order baby business".

According to reports at the time Mr Wroe had approved some adoption applications with false information in them, including one bearing the name of a convicted child molester.

He was paid between £500 and £750 a time by families in the UK looking to adopt babies from overseas, it was alleged, to prepare reports for the Home Office and Guatemalan authorities in London but did not investigate all of them properly, meaning incorrect information went unchecked.

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Reporters said they had discovered a "shocking lack of safeguards" that allowed an organised "racket" to flourish.

Mr Wroe said at the time: "We can't check everything. I acted in good faith."

He was sacked by Islington in January 1997 and his later employment tribunal claim and appeal were struck out.

Pam said the reports alarmed her because: "I could have been anyone".

After Mr Wroe was dismissed she was never permitted to adopt the youngster, who was moved to a care home.

"She really was adorable," Pam said. "She was fantastic and happy.

"She couldn't walk or communicate properly, but could communicate with us through touch and through music. She understood us and we understood her."

The press revelations came in the wake of the publication of The White Report in 1995 on horrific physical and sexual abuse in Islington's care homes.

The review had recommended the council "urgently" strengthen its HR practices.

Liz Davies, who heads the Islington Survivors Network, said: "The Cook report on Jim Wroe was followed by an Islington investigation but ISN have not seen even a summary of this other than a statement that Wroe had not been involved in adoption work in Islington. We now know this was untrue.

"We do not even know if he was allowed to continue to practice social work or if anyone ever bothered to monitor his work.

"In August 2017, because ISN remained concerned, I brought the Cook Report to the attention of the responsible LBI officer.

"It is so important for former staff to come forward to ISN with concerns. Their evidence is essential for the protection of children."

The most recent Ofsted report for Islington's services for vulnerable children rated it Good, with management and governance rated Outstanding.

An Islington Council spokesman said: "In the 24 years following the publication of the White Report there have been huge changes in Islington.

"The council strongly believes any new allegations of crime or abuse should be reported to the police."

Jim Wroe and Hannah Miller did not respond to a request for comment.

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