NORTH WALES: LONG-SUPPRESSED REPORT REVEALS CONTINUING FAILURES IN INSTITUTIONAL CARE
“The evidence emerging is that children’s homes were a gulag archipelago stretching across Britain.”
Malcolm King, former Chair Social Services Committee
In March 1994, Clwyd County Council’s Social Services Committee commissioned an investigation into ongoing allegations of abuse in foster care, establishing an independent panel composed of three experts. John Jillings, former social services director for Derbyshire; Professor Jane Tunstall of Keele University; and Gerrilyn Smith, who had previously been affiliated with Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.
The Jillings inquiry was met with resistance from the outset. Journalist Roger Dobson of The Independent provides some of the details of a cover-up that his article describes as “astonishing.” Among the difficulties encountered by the Jillings panel:
The then newly appointed North Wales chief constable, who was uncontactable yesterday, refused to meet them or help with access to the police major-incident database. “We were disappointed at the apparent impossibility of obtaining a breakdown of data. We are unable to identify the overall extent of the allegations received by the police in the many witness statements which they took.”
Some 130 boxes of material handed over by the council to the police were not made available to the panel.
The council did not allow the inquiry to place a notice in the local press seeking information. “This was considered to be unacceptable to the insurers,” says the report.
The 300-page report was delivered a year later, however the much-anticipated “Jillings Report” was buried by the Council on the advise of attorneys who said the findings may lead to adverse court actions and a potential rash of compensation claims. The Council regarded the information as being so sensitive that copies of the report were numbered, and, at some point, recalled.
While copies of the Jillings Report remain elusive, according to media accounts the Report said that allegations involving famous names and paedophile rings were beyond its remit, and that those considerations would best be left to a possible future inquiry.
Roger Dobson managed to obtain a copy of the Report, writing in November of 2012 that it described a child care system in which physical and sexual violence were common, from beatings and bullying, to indecent assault and rape. Children who complained of abuse were not believed, or were punished for making false allegations. According to Dobson, the report stated that while the number of children who were actually abused is not clear, estimates ranged up to as many as 200. During the early 1990s, around 150 alleged victims had sought compensation from the state.
The report stated that some staff members linked to the alleged abuse may have been allowed to resign, or to retire early. The report noted that its panel members had seriously considered quitting before publication, due to “the considerable constraints placed upon us.” The appendices to the Report included limited copies of the key witness statements taken by the North Wales Police during their investigation.
Incredibly, the authors of the Jillings Report had predicted its own demise. The final report remained unpublished, due primarily to financial concerns expressed by the council’s insurer, Municipal Mutual Insurance. The insurance company went so far as to suggest that Malcolm King, then chair of the Council’s social services committee, should be fired if he spoke out publicly about the findings of the report.
King reportedly did not hold back, having told The Independant on Sunday at the time: “The evidence emerging is that children’s homes were a gulag archipelago stretching across Britain – wonderful places for paedophiles but, for the children who suffered, places of unending nightmares.”
Journalist Rhian Waller of The Leader describes as “shameful” the decision on the part of the Council to bury the Jillings Report, citing former chairman Malcolm King as saying: “A number of people refused to touch it. It was as though they would get a disease from it.”
“I was told if I kept on pushing for publication, or even mentioned the report, it would encourage more claimants to come forward, and if that happened, the insurance company would close their policy and Clwyd Council would be responsible for insuring itself,” King explained.
Mr. Jillings, who is reported as being respected by many as an independent social services expert, described the findings of the suppressed report to journalist Roger Dobson of The Independent in November 2012: “What we found was horrific and on a significant scale. If the events in children’s homes in North Wales were to be translated into a film, Oliver Twist would seem relatively benign.”
The scale of what happened, and how it was allowed to happen, according to Jillings “are a disgrace, and stain on the history of child care in this country.”
The Jillings panel called for a judicial inquiry into the allegations, saying: “It is the opinion of the panel that extensive and widespread abuse has occurred within Clwyd residential establishments for children and young people.
“An internal social service inquiry such as that of the independent panel cannot hope to address successfully the wider areas of concern which we identified during the course of our investigation, having neither the resources nor the authority to do so. This includes the suggestion that public figures may have been involved in the abuse of young people in Clwyd.”
The report also declared that social service and other officials entrusted with the care of children in state care instead choose to turn a blind eye to potential abuses: “Our findings show that time and again, the response to indications that children may have been abused has been too little and too late. Furthermore, the needs and interests of young children have tended to be an incidental rather than a primary concern. Our criticisms in this regard apply not only to the county council, but also to the Welsh Office, North Wales Police and constituent agencies.”
Professionals involved clearly put their own concerns –including their own careers — before the needs of the children. As the suppressed report explained: “A second overarching finding is that there has been a conflict of interest between safeguarding professional positions versus the safety of children and young people. The interests of children have almost invariably been sacrificed.”
The report condemned Welsh Office social service inspectors for failing to visit so much as a single children’s home in the 10 years during which most of the abuse was alleged to have taken place.
In his coverage of the events in November of 2012, Dominic Kennedy reported in The Times that according to the Jillings Report, at least 12 former residents of children’s care homes were found to have died from unnatural causes.
LONG TERM PROBLEM
As controversial as it may have been at the time, The Jillings report was not the only inquiry up to that point. Journalist Roger Dobson of The Independent explains:
It emerged that there were other unpublished reports, one of which showed that warnings about the possibility of a paedophile ring operating around children’s homes in North Wales and the North-west had been given four years previously. There were 12 internal reports on alleged abuse in all. Only six made it to the social services committee and just two were reported in any detail. As a result, it was almost impossible to have an overview of what was happening in children’s homes.
Mrs. Ann Clwyd brought this point up during a point of order in the House of Commons, on June 19, 1996.
“This morning a Welsh Office Minister tried to convince me that the Jillings report was defamatory. That is rubbish. What are they trying to hide?” she stated during the session.
She continued, adding that: “I want to expose the fact that 25 years ago there was a report on Bryn Estyn, one of the homes involved in the Clwyd child abuse case, but it was never published because the Home Office suppressed it. We cannot close down debate in the House of Commons on an issue as important as child abuse.”
Indeed, in 1996 Roger Dobson reported that the problem of abuse in foster care extended well back into the 1960s. In an article in The Independent, he describes an earlier report that met exactly the same fate as that of the Jillings report:
A secret report on the brutal regime at a children’s school in North Wales reveals that boys were being abused as long ago as the 1960s.
Boys were regularly kicked, punched, thrown, kneed and viciously beaten by named staff members at the Bryn Estyn school according to an unpublished Home Office tribunal report. In one case, two boys were whipped from head to toe, and one needed medical treatment.
Fourteen workers at the home gave evidence to the tribunal but its report – completed in February 1971 – was never published. It is believed that only a handful of copies of the 255-page dossier exist.
A copy obtained by the Independent, establishes that abuse at Bryn Estyn went on for more than 30 years and started long before the abuse that led to the 1991 police investigation.
The Council of Clwyd ceased to exist in the reorganization of Welsh local governments into smaller authorities. Two of the Council’s last acts were to take delivery of the 300-page report detailing the horrific child abuse endured by children in its homes; and to suppress it completely.
In November of 2012, Michael Savage, Political Correspondent with The Times reported that: “A suppressed report into child abuse in north Wales care homes during the 1970s and 1980s could finally be published,” however that came with one caveat — that is, “if a copy still exists.”
At least one copy did, in fact, exist. On November 12, 2012, BBC Wales ran a headline reading: “Wales child abuse: Councils find Jillings report copies.” The report was found amongst Flintshire council’s files.
It wasn’t until July 8 that a redacted version of the report was finally released to the public. It is one of few once-suppressed reports detailing the failings of the child protection industry to see the light of day.
Fostering Aspirations: Reforming the foster care system in England and Wales
Policy Exchange, 2012
Children in care are seven times more likely to misuse drugs and alcohol than others, 50 times more likely to end up in prison, 60 times more likely to become homeless and 66 times more likely to have children of their own who will need public care.
Maltreatment and Allegations of Maltreatment in Foster Care. A Review of the Evidence
Nina Biehal and Elizabeth Parry, Sept 2010
University of York and The Fostering Network
Comprehensive surveys false allegations against foster care providers in the U.K. including England, Scotland, and Wales.
Looked After Children: An inspection of the work of Youth Offending Teams with children and young people who are looked after and placed away from home
HMI Probation, Ofsted and Estyn, Dec 2012
In the overwhelming majority of the cases that we inspected, the outcomes for the children and young people were poor. Children and young people were not always protected.
The Waterhouse Report – Lost in Care
Lost in Care – Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Abuse of Children in Care in the Former County Council Areas of Gwynedd and Clwyd since 1974, February 15, 2000.
Related Media Accounts
The truth behind the child abuse cover-ups
Telegraph.co.uk, July 13, 2013
Jillings report: The main points
BBC News, July 8, 2013.
Long-awaited Jillings Report details ‘extensive’ child abuse at North Wales children’s homes …
In-Depth-WalesOnline, July 8, 2013.
North Wales child abuse: offenders will be brought to justice, say police
The Guardian, Apr 29, 1013
Wales child abuse: Report finds evidence of 140 allegations
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Wales child abuse: Operation Pallial inquiry finds evidence of 140 claims
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Wales child abuse: Judge appeal to Waterhouse witnesses
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Children’s rights test case by boy, 15, over foster care
BBC News, Nov 19, 2012
A victim of his delusions: Astonishing story the BBC DIDN’T tell you about its troubled star witness
The Mail, Nov 13, 2012
The North Wales child abuse scandal: A damaged generation waits for justice 30 years on
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