Childline was founded by Esther Rantzen in 1986, and was intended as a telephone hotline for children to report abuse. It has been heavily criticised for failing to expose widespread organised abuse in schools and children’s homes across the UK.
In 2006 Childline merged with the NSPCC, another children’s charity that has been accused of not doing enough to expose child abuse, not to mention its links with the paedophile Jimmy Savile.
But the idea for Childline was not new. A similar service was first operated by an organisation called Voice of the Child in Care in 1979, but concentrated solely on children in care in the London area. Like Childline, it seems to have had very little impact in exposing the paedophile networks that had infiltrated children’s homes.
We now know that paedophile networks operated in almost every London borough, but the most notorious of these are Islington and Lambeth, where every single home had been infiltrated by child abusers. Voice of the Child in Care (VCC) had connections with both these boroughs. The Director of Islington’s Social Services department, John Rea Price, was a member of VCC, as was a Lambeth social worker called Hugh Geach. Another prominent member of VCC was Len Davis, who held many dubious views and was associated with Peter Righton, a renowned child care expert who was later exposed as being a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange, and part of a network of paedophiles who preyed on boys in schools and children’s homes across the UK. Len Davis believed in the abolition of the age of consent, wrote of children “seducing” adult residential workers, and advised against reporting sexual abuse in children’s homes if the abuse was “reciprocally desired and reciprocally enjoyed”. (1)
The VCC hotline was also supported by the National Council of Civil Liberties (NCCL), who only a year before had opposed the Protection of Children Bill and called for the law on images of child abuse to be relaxed. NCCL’s official response, signed by their legal officer Harriet Harman, said “childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in, with an adult result in no identifiable damage” and called for child abuse images to be decriminalised unless it could be proved that the child had suffered harm. NCCL were also affilated to the Paedophile Information Exchange, who wanted the age of consent lowered to 4 years old. (2)
The VCC hotline didn’t specifically ask for children in care to report abuse, but this isn’t surprising as much of the social work profession didn’t even acknowledge the existence of child sexual abuse until the mid-late 1980s. Instead, the VCC hotline promised that “for the next seven months, children in care will be able to ring in with complaints about their treatment in care, the decisons made concerning them, and their day-to-day life”.
It’s obvious that “treatment in care” would include abuse suffered at the hands of residential care workers, but either no children reported this type of abuse, or the reports of abuse weren’t acted on, as paedophile networks in London children’s homes weren’t exposed until the early 1990s. These “decisions” would have included where they were placed in care. VCC also acted as an advocacy service who could negotiate with the local authority and place children with, for example, a particular foster carer.
VCC are known to have recommended children to be placed with single male residential care workers. In the early 1980s, Islington and Lambeth were among the first local authorities to adopt equal opportunities policies which meant single men were encouraged to foster and adopt. The White report on Islington children’s homes in 1995 stated that these policies had provided a loophole enabling paedophiles to gain access to the child care system by posing as ‘gay’.
More on VCC soon.
Social Work Today, 1st May 1979
Social Work Today, 5th June 1979