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Islington care homes scandal: survivors forgotten?

Campaigners warn many who suffered abuse are being left out of ‘support’ scheme

23 July, 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Dr Liz Davies: ‘Islington are saying 2,000 people are coming forward but there is no real grounding for extra support’

SURVIVORS of childhood abuse in Islington’s care homes say the Town Hall’s plans to hand them “support” payments don’t go far enough.

The council’s scheme aims to help those affected by the scandal – described as the “worst chapter” in Islington’s history – and offers cash sums to people who were abused by paid staff between 1966 and 1995.

A public apology has already been made to the scores of abuse survivors, but many say the scheme is omitting those who may have suffered abuse while in foster care, or outside of the specified period of time.

Jane Frawley, from the Islington Survivors Network (ISN), said: “This is the main reason we are fighting. Many were abused in foster care.

“Islington was very clear: it is available for those abused between a certain time period and by a paid member of staff.”

Those who suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse while in Islington Council’s care could receive £8,000 through the “support payment scheme”.

The Town Hall insists that it is not a “compensation scheme” as victims are still able to take the council to the civil court and possibly secure larger financial settlements – although any final compensation agreed in court would have the £8,000 deducted from it.

Donna, who did not want her surname published as she is a survivor of abuse, said the scope for those to be considered for the payment is limited.

She added: “I come under the category of ‘neglect’, so I am not included in the payment scheme. There is also the issue of peer-on-peer abuse which took place and isn’t included in the scheme.

“It has got to be inclusive to as many survivors as possible. It has got to not be so time limited, it has got to be open so more can come forward.”

The ISN, who are funded by the council, say they have felt shut out of the consultation process and are worried that the proposals will be rolled out without their input.

Members are calling for an appeals system to be put in place and are asking the council to involve them in the application stage and are also negotiating over the amount of money paid.

Donna said: “I don’t think there has been enough professional input. I think it is really unfair and really disappointing that they have tried to quantify someone’s suffering to an amount.

“Money isn’t going to make everything OK and it isn’t a lot of money anyway. It opens the door but we are still left with the wounds.

“That payment scheme isn’t going to heal us. But it will put a plaster over the wound. It may encourage people to go ahead and make a civil claim.”

Ms Frawley said: “We heard them say very clearly, on one hand they were not going to re-traumatise anyone and the payment would be smooth and as quick as possible. But if they say no, there is no appeals system.

“We are really worried because we cannot back something like this. Even if the answer is yes, they still need to provide services to tackle those deep, hidden traumas.

“We cannot back something we know will be hideous for survivors.

“We are still trying to be seen and be heard. It feels like we really won’t know what’s happened until it’s rolled out.”

Dr Liz Davies, from ISN, who was a whistleblower in the 1980s, said: “We have not even had an acknowledgement.

“Survivors need ISN to be able to speak the lingo. Survivor language is different to council language. We want to give our input.

“Islington are saying 2,000 people are coming forward but there is no real grounding for extra support. Any time when there’s a no and there’s no appeals system, where can they go for support?”

Donna added: “We are almost powerless. We are powerless against the system like we were as children. Liz is the biggest part in this. She is the whistleblower. She needs to be on that panel.”

Islington Council leader Kaya Comer-Schwartz said: “Abuse of children in Islington’s care homes was the worst chapter in the council’s history, and we are deeply sorry for the council’s past failure to protect vulnerable children.

“We have now consulted on the proposed Support Payment Scheme, which would enable abuse survivors to receive a financial support payment without having to bring a civil compensation claim.

“The council is extremely grateful to everyone who has taken part in the consultation, especially abuse survivors, Islington Survivors Network, and other support organisations and advocates.

“We are now carefully considering all comments and suggestions before the proposed scheme is finalised.”

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