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Compensation for children’s home abuse survivor

Woman’s legal victory over the Town Hall, as whistleblower warns of 'a lot more individual claims coming the council’s way'

17 July, 2020

A SURVIVOR of childhood sexual abuse at an Islington children’s home has won a legal claim against the Town Hall to receive compensation.

Claire, whose name had to be changed to protect her identity, spent her childhood living in care at Gisburne House – a large children’s home run by Islington Council in Watford. While there, she was subjected to sexual abuse by members of staff and another child resident.

The home’s superintendent, Geoffrey Wylde-Jones, now deceased, was one of those said to have committed serious sexual assaults. Other survivors of abuse have previously named him as a perpetrator.

Islington Council initially sought to reject Claire’s claim, putting forward a repudiation.

But Leigh Day solicitors pressed ahead with obtaining medical evidence and supportive witness evidence from former Islington social workers. A settlement was eventually agreed at £35,000 and Claire has also requested an individual apology from the council.

Dr Liz Davies, a former council social worker who blew the whistle on the abuse, has set up the Islington Survivors Network (ISN) to support those abused while in the council’s care.

Leigh Day is bringing compensation claims on behalf of a number of former care leavers of Islington’s children’s homes. The law firm also represents ISN in its fight to have a comprehensive redress scheme.

Dr Davies said that the current compensation system is “inhumane” as survivors often have to relive their experience in interviews with council officers which may not then lead to compensation without a legal battle.

She added: “There are a lot more individual claims coming the council’s way because of the absence of a redress scheme.

“We have the names of over 1,000 children who were in 48 Islington children’s homes, but there must be many more.

“My understanding is the abuse happened from the 1960s to the mid-90s. Most of the people who come to us are from the 70s and 80s. In Gisbourne House, the home that Clare was in, we know about 50 people were there who suffered abuse.”

Town Hall leader Cllr Richard Watts publicly apologised to the survivors and accepted that the local authority was culpable for abuse in its children’s homes and spoke about righting the wrongs of the past in a 2017 meeting.

Andrew Lord, associate solicitor in the abuse team at Leigh Day, said: “Claire had to fight hard against the barriers put up in her legal claim.

“Whilst I am pleased that she will receive the compensation that she so rightly deserves, it is utter nonsense that she was put through the stress of such an adversarial process, given what has been reported about abuse in Islington’s children’s homes and the public apology made by Islington Council.

“I would echo ISN’s call for Islington Council to promptly establish a redress scheme.”

Cllr Watts said: “The council today is a very different organisation from in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and today protecting children from harm is our top priority. We’re committed to supporting survivors with, amongst other things, access to psychological support and counselling, personal advice on issues such as housing, access to benefits and individual support.

“The council has paid civil compensation to a number of survivors over the years. In addition, the council and its professional advisors are working very hard on a package of support. This is legally complex and time consuming. We will update the Islington Survivors Network (ISN) when this proposal has been developed further.”

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