The Times, 24th May 1995
A LEFT-WING council’s politically correct policies in favour of homosexuals, women and ethnic minorities helped paedophile rings, pimps, drug dealers and child pornographers to exploit children in care, a report said yesterday.
Islington Borough Council’s failed policies mean that some of those responsible for the scandal are still working in childcare today. Although the north London authority has totally revised its procedures and is “in a much more robust state of health”, Ian White, the Oxfordshire director of social services who compiled the report, gave a warning last night that politically correct procedures and badly co-ordinated efforts to decentralise services were likely to create similar serious problems elsewhere.
“There is a fair chance that in other areas of the country there are timebombs like this ticking away,” he said. “A laudable policy, implemented badly, results in the seeds of doom being sown.” Islington has now recommended that all other authorities employing its former staff check their history with the Department of Health. The report emphasises, however, that only a small number of paedophiles are ever convicted, so the chances of their names appearing on the department register are slim.
The report suggests that the Home Office should pool police and social service information about suspects in children’s homes, education and the youth service.
The report, commissioned by Islington into its own childcare department, found that between 1982 and 1992 allegations of criminal behaviour and misconduct by staff were not thoroughly examined, because “managers believed they would not be supported if they triggered disciplinary investigations involving staff from ethnic minorities or the homosexual community. It cannot be a coincidence that of the 32 staff a number fall within that group.” That positive bias towards certain groups became “unfair protection and a great danger”. Many staff were recruited with minimum checks, because the council had positive discrimination in favour of minorities and could not insist on references from previous employers or challenge the status of a referee, who might be a close personal friend.
At the same time as the minority groups were helped to find jobs, there was “no strong ethos of promoting children’s rights and protecting children at risk”.
On top of that the council had set about decentralising its childcare services, which meant that unqualified people were put in charge of them. That resulted in “a demoralised management system, unsupported and with fragmented leadership … staffed by people not from a social services background … Clearly such an organisation becomes a recipe for disaster.”
All this led to the creation of a “weak, ineffective organisation which was set up by individuals to feed off for their own advantage: it was paralysed by equal opportunity and race issues”.
Although Mr White was unable to check the abuse stories, he found that chaotic organisation had bred the conditions for dangerous and negligent practices. “The possibility that many of the allegations made were true remains.” Since suspect staff were not properly investigated, they were able to look for jobs elsewhere without any stain on their character.
Of the 32 staff named in a confidential appendix to the report, the only one employed by the council still working in childcare was suspended yesterday. Two of the others were dismissed earlier after disciplinary procedures, five left on health grounds before disciplinary action was concluded, one was dismissed and just one faced a charge of child abuse. Ten of the remainder resigned or took early retirement. Some of those obtained improved benefits and all of them had a clean record.
Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking, was leader of the council for most of the period concerned. Her office said last night that she was away at a conference and had not seen the report, so could not comment on it.