Minister acts over our child abuse revelations (7.10.92)

Evening Standard,  7th October 1992

ES071092b

HEALTH SECRETARY Virginia Bottomley today ordered Islington Council to provide a swift response to the ‘serious and worrying allegations’ of abuse revealed in an Evening Standard investigation into its children’s homes.
Yesterday the Standard printed the disturbing stories of children in care who have been exposed to paedophiles, pimps and prostitution.
Today, beginning on Page 15, we examine the cases of two former Islington residential workers alleged to have abused boys in their care and how fears of a child sex ring were dismissed by management.
Following yesterday’s publication, Mrs Bottomley issued a statement saying she had instructed Islington Council to explain its actions ‘as soon as possible’.
‘To take advantage of the most vulnerable children in our society in the ways alleged in the Evening Standard article is despicable,’ she said.
‘I know that Islington Council will be looking very closely at their services for children and the people who provide them. I have asked the Social Services Inspectorate to give me a full report on Islington’s response.’
She added that she had recently urged new measures to strengthen independent inspection of children’s homes ‘in order to protect children from abuse and exploitation.
‘I intend to make sure that we have in place reliable systems that will pick up early warning signs.’
Islington Council confirmed that Mrs Bottomley had asked it to produce a report commenting on the Standard articles. ‘Its author will be independent of the social services department,’ said a spokesman.
The council also issued a statement from Labour councillor Sandy Marks, who chairs the social services committee. This ignores the central concerns raised by yesterday’s articles but takes issue on several points of detail. It says:
* ‘The circumstances of these young people are known to us and have been the subject of casework or detailed investigation.’
We reply: We do not dispute this. But, as the children’s stories showed, it was clearly ineffective. Some of our sources were involved in this casework and appealed to us because they felt it had not been resolved properly.
* ‘All our homes are inspected monthly and reports provided to management and councillors.’
We reply: We do not challenge the regularity of inspections, merely their efficiency.
* ‘The Standard has been asked for three months to furnish us with any new evidence. They have singularly failed to do so.’
We reply: We completed our inquiries and gave the council two weeks to prepare their reply. We do not claim to have found ‘new evidence’. What we have done is to expose how Islington failed to act properly on the evidence already given by parents, children and worried staff.
* ‘Neville Mighty, a key informant of the Standard, was the subject of allegations of gross sexual misconduct by young people in his care, was investigated and subsequently dismissed.’
We reply: Mighty was charged with sexual harassment but was found guilty only of using inappropriate language of a sexual nature. The matter is now under appeal. Twelve members of staff gave evidence on his behalf, including nine women. He is only one of our many sources.
* ‘The case of Roy Caterer was the subject of a Hertfordshire police investigation. No evidence or information was passed to the council.’
We reply: This is clearly wrong. Caterer was only imprisoned for sexually abusing children in care when a determined Islington social worker found some of his victims and went to local police. They liaised with Hertfordshire police. That social worker wrote a report for her superiors and no action was taken on it.
Councillor Marks also claimed children interviewed by the Standard were paid.
And Mrs Margaret Hodge, leader of Islington Council, alleged in a radio
interview with LBC Newstalk Radio that our reporters sat outside childrens home enticing children with £50 bribes for stories.
We reply: These allegations are absolutely untrue. Only one girl, no longer in care and unemployed, was paid £90 with her parents’ approval. This was for the time she spent helping reporters trace children who suffered in Islington’s care during the 12-week inquiry.
It is most unfortunate that Islington Council should seek to deflect the substance and seriousness of the situation revealed by the Standard’s inquiry by making inaccurate statements. We believe the council should concentrate its energies on reforming its inadequate social services procedures.

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