Today, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse have published their long-awaited report following the investigation into abuse suffered by children in the care of Nottinghamshire County Council and Nottingham City Council. The inquiry focused on three case studies: Beechwood Children’s Home, Foster Care, and harmful sexual behaviour.
Farleys Solicitors represent Core Participant N1, who was abused by a member of staff at Beechwood Care Home in the early 1980s. The concerns and recommendations raised by N1 in her oral evidence were referenced throughout the report.
N1 provided a significant insight into the extent of the abuse and failings of Nottinghamshire Council in her oral and written evidence to the Inquiry last October. A summary of the evidence heard at the three week Inquiry in October 2018 can be found here.
The report is now live on the IICSA website.
The report made strong findings in respect of the failings of both local authorities, stating that they did not learn “from their mistakes despite decades of evidence of failure to protect children in care.”
These include findings that there was a sexualised culture in children’s homes, under-staffing, a low ratio of qualified staff, overcrowding, and policies and practices were ignored by staff with “impunity”
N1’s evidence highlighted the ways in which staff would have been aware of the abuse and the report goes on to state “All, if not most, staff members at Beechwood knew about the abuse but failed to prevent or report it.”
At page 33, the Inquiry summarises the evidence received in relation to the Beechwood case study. At page 34, it states that “five witnesses gave their accounts of being sexually abused at Beechwood and around 35 other complainant core participants provided statements. 100 further accounts of sexual abuse were collated from police interviews, civil litigation claims and other records.
N1 and other core participants made very clear to the Inquiry in her oral and written evidence that she wanted to provide evidence in an attempt to prevent abuse of children currently in residential care. Importantly, this was noted by the Inquiry in the report.
N1 gave compelling evidence regarding the physical abuse children suffered at Beechwood, providing instrumental evidence in respect of senior manager, Ken Rigby, and that children were forced to partake in boxing matches. At page 51 para 72, “N1 and other complainants say they were made to fight one another, although Ken Rigby and Mark Cope told us that staff organised boxing matches and no child was forced to fight.” The Inquiry highlighted the insensitive and unhelpful remarks that Ken Rigby made in his live-stream oral evidence at page 43, including that “he thought Beechwood was used as a “dumping ground” and that it would take “anybody who is disruptive in any sort of community home in Nottinghamshire”.
N1 made various remarks about the reason children in care found it difficult to make disclosures about the abuse. The Inquiry made the following findings in regards to barriers to reporting abuse, drawing on N1’s evidence:
P120, para 2.3 – children had “no-one to whom they felt able to disclose, which may be due to a lack of trust, a feeling of isolation, a lack of opportunity to speak to a social worker on their own, or not having the same social worker for a sustained period”.
Page 120, para 2.5 – children were “not understanding what was happening at the time or seeing abuse as normal, possibly due to grooming or past abuse”;
P122, para 8 – “Children in care can be more vulnerable to abuse than other children, which may be due to their experiences prior to coming into care. The impact of neglect may make it more difficult for children in are to distinguish between appropriate behaviour from trusted people and harmful relationships or activities”.
P122, Para 8.2- those who may be best placed to provide an avenue for reporting, such as social workers, are often the same people who have removed them from their family, which may make it difficult to establish trust.
In the report’s conclusions, the Inquiry noted that management staff at Beechwood had greater concern for the perpetrators of the abuse than for the children.
At page 138 para 17, it states that “Andris Logins was able to sexually abuse residents at Beechwood because it was an environment where sexualised behaviour was tolerated or overlooked. Some staff raised concerns about the behaviour of colleagues but were not taken seriously; others witnessed colleagues acting inappropriately towards children but did nothing.
At page 138 para 19, the report references N1’s evidence when concluding that “the staff were often viewed as vulnerable rather than the children, with some girls seen as creating a particular risk for male staff. During this period, Beechwood was not a safe environment for vulnerable children. Staff were both threatening and violent, physical abuse was commonplace and children were frightened”.
This was highlighted in the report at page 54 para 85 in reference to Andris Logins. It states that “Mark Cope remembered Logins being tactile with the girls who would sit on his knee “This was actually done in front of management and anybody else who was around. He didn’t hide what he was doing”. Ken Rigby admitted to us that a blind eye was “probably” turned toward the way Logins behaved, adding, “but I have got no knowledge of that” he grudgingly accepted that, in his management role, he too was responsible for what happened to children.”
N1 gave evidence that she would frequently abscond from Beechwood due to the abuse she suffered. This was used as the basis for the Inquiry’s findings At page 69 para 51 Ken Rigby said that girls “absconded for all sorts of reasons”. Some Children at Beechwood were “very devious in all sorts of things. Absconding was just but one of them”. At page 138 para 20, the report states that “the reasons for high levels of absconding in the mid 1980s to the 1990s were not explored by Beechwood staff, who saw absconding as an example of “devious” behaviour. The risks faced by these children and their vulnerabilities were not addressed”. This was again raised by N1 in her oral evidence.
The Inquiry made 2 recommendations in its report.
The Councils “should assess the potential risks posed by current and former residential care staff and foster carers,…ensure that current and former staff in residential care provided by external agencies, are assessed by those agencies.” Any concerns which arise should be referred to the appropriate body or process.”
“Nottingham City Council and its child protection partners should commission an independent, external evaluation of their practice concerning harmful sexual behaviour…[and an] action plan should be set up to ensure that any recommendations are responded to in a timely manner”.
The findings and conclusions of this investigation recognise and draw upon the vital evidence provided by the core participants and the same could not have been achieved without their courage to share their experiences.
The Inquiry had asked that the Councils provide a response to their recommendations by the end of February 2020. This will be a good opportunity for the Councils to demonstrate the measures they are taking to ensure that children are better protected in their care. The Inquiry has also noted that other local authorities should take action to ensure that children are safeguarded within their care.
Farleys Solicitors act for victims of abuse across the UK. To speak to a solicitor in confidence about your experiences, please call our dedicated abuse line on 0330 134 6430 or email us today.