Islington’s head of child homes resigns (15.11.93)

Evening Standard, 15th November 1993
By Eileen Fairweather & Stuart Payne

LYN CUSACK, the Islington Council social work director in charge of children’s homes who was at the centre of an Evening Standard inquiry into sex abuse, has resigned.

Her departure follows more than a week of protracted negotiations between Ms Cusack, her solicitor and lawyers acting for the council’s chief executive.

The Standard had learnt 10 days ago that Ms Cusack was to leave her senior post but enquiries were stalled by the council and were met with legal challenges from her solicitor, Louise Christian.

The Standard was warned that it could face libel proceedings if it suggested that Ms Cusack, an assistant director, was being dismissed or threatened with termination of her contract. Now the council has finally confirmed that Ms Cusack has resigned.

She was responsible for the homes at the centre of the newspaper allegations of sexual abuse of children in care. These have been examined by an independent inquiry ordered by Health Secretary Virginia Bottomley. It has heavily criticised the council and demanded major changes in the management of social services.

This week that inquiry moves onto its third stage and is now to examine evidence of ‘missing files’ relating to specific cases of abuse in homes. The Standard has discovered that files vital to a police inquiry into a boy’s allegation of sexual abuse by his social worker went astray and were not available to an Old Bailey trial.
It is not suggested that Ms Cusack was responsible for the absence of the files although she had overall responsibility for the department.

Mr Emlyn Cassam, leader of the inquiry, said: ‘The exact terms of reference for phase three have still to be agreed but it will cover allegations about files that have been missing.’

When the Standard published its damning articles, which later received a prestigious award for investigative reporting, they were branded ‘gutter journalism’ by then council leader Margaret Hodge. The articles, since supported by the independent review, revealed a dogma-ridden administration with low staff morale. Management inertia led to a declining standard of child care and, in the worst cases, failed to prevent teenagers from falling victim to paedophiles, pornographers and pimps. Concerns by worried social workers that abuse was rife were not properly acted upon.

The newspaper examined several specific cases where boys in care had alleged they were the victims of sexual abuse by male residential social workers. And it is in these cases that the Standard has discovered vital files relating to the allegations were either lost or missing.

The most worrying case involved gay Islington social worker Tom Yeomans who attempted to foster a 15-year-old boy in his care. Ms Cusack had said the application should be allowed to be considered despite grave fears by social workers.
The foster application failed only after the boy alleged 18 months of abuse by Yeomans. The social worker was charged with buggery, gross indecency and indecent assault but the Old Bailey trial collapsed because there was no corroboration of the boy’s allegations.

However the trial judge was critical of Yeoman’s behaviour and branded him a liar. But the Standard can now reveal that not all the evidence was available for the trial. Ms Cusack’s department was asked by police to assist the prosecution by producing the boy’s social work and residential files. They were told the residential files were missing and it was not until the eve of the trial that the social work file came to light.

But the two residential files remained missing. These detailed Islington’s appalling management of the boy’s welfare, including weekends he spent sleeping at Yeomans’ flat despite the objections of other staff.

The Standard has established that these files were handed to Lyn Cusack’s department. The staff member who gave them to the department is now to give evidence on this to the independent inquiry. The department was also at the centre of another case of missing files.

In 1991 an Islington children’s home worker was arrested in an investigation of a gay sex ring and photographs of young boys. Among the photographs were two of an Islington boy formerly in the care of the worker.

When interviewed the boy alleged sexual abuse by the man, now living and working in Sussex. Police re-quested assistance from Islington Council including the provision of all relevant files. Sussex police, in June last year, were told that some files were missing. These recorded details of visits by the boy to the man’s Sussex home, despite objections by his colleagues.

But at a second meeting attended by Ms Cusack, police were told the files had been found. In a statement on her departure, Islington Council said: ‘Lyn Cusack, the assistant director of neighbour-hood services, has decided to take early retirement for personal reasons after 26 years with Islington Council. The council has decided, with regret, to accept the decision and will continue its reorganisation plans for its childcare services as a matter of priority.’

In a statement through her lawyer, Ms Cusack said she was leaving with ‘extreme sadness’ and for ‘personal reasons’. She said she wanted to express her gratitude to the council members and officers for all their support recently and in past years.

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