Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 848-859)




  848. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, I apologise for keeping you waiting. As you know, this is the sixth oral session in this inquiry. A lot of cases are still sub judice—they are still before the courts in one way or another—and therefore it would be helpful if you did not refer to particular cases, but by all means refer in general terms if you are looking for examples that support your position. Can I start by asking each of you which organisation you represent and could you give us a brief description of its aim and purposes.
  (Kathryn Stone) I work with Voice UK, which is an organisation that supports children and adults with learning disabilities who have been abused or who have been victims of crime. The organisation has been in existence for nearly 10 years now. It came into being following the abuse of a young woman with learning disabilities who was considered to be an incompetent witness because of her leaning disability. We provide support to such people and their families and carers.

  849. How are you funded?
  (Kathryn Stone) We are funded by charitable donations, by membership fees and also we receive a small core grant from the Department of Health.
  (Teresa Reynolds) I work for Victim Support. Victim Support provides information, practical help and emotional support to victims of crime ranging from burglary through to murder of a relative. We also in any year probably support about 1.2 million people. Those people are supported in community-based schemes, largely provided by volunteers. We also run the Witness Service, which is in every Crown Court and Magistrates' Court. There are about 120,000 witnesses—prosecution and defence witnesses—as well as victims and relatives who are supported in the courts. In addition to that, we also run a support line which provides telephone help to people who ring up and want either direct support or we refer them on to local groups. There are about 18,000 callers a year. I have asked the support line for details of callers who fall into category of those people whom the Committee is particularly interested in. In March, April and May they had 150 adults who reported having been abused in childhood. They could only ascertain that one of those people had actually been abused while in care, and they could only ascertain that 13 of their total callers in that three-months period had not, so there may be more. I have not got the precise details.
  (Mr Byrne) My name is Matthew Byrne from an organisation called Fire in Ice. Fire in Ice is a Merseyside-based, self-help project run by and for adult men who have experienced child abuse, especially those who have suffered abuse in child care institutions. We support men who have experienced abuse and their families by providing a one-to-one service with group support, publishing material and acting as a group focus for them to empower them. Our group has two clear aims. We aim to enable men who have experienced child abuse and their families to make positive change to their lives. We also aim to make the care experience safe for children and young people today. Over their past two years we have been operating, we have supported over 300 men and their families across Merseyside, most of whom have experience of Operation Care, Operation Van Gough and Operation Granite.

  850. How did you come into existence? Your scheme is only two or three years old.
  (Mr Byrne) Yes. We were originally a small support group of men who had gone through the Operation Care investigation and formed together after the trial to say: what can we do to support each other? Main stream social services on Merseyside at that time did not meet their individual needs. The idea was to get together and do that. The funding for that came—and we are very proud of this—from Liverpool City Council.

  851. And it still does?
  (Mr Byrne) So far, yes. We are in negotiating.
  (Mr Frampton) My name is Phil Frampton. I am National Chair of the Care Leavers Association. The Care Leavers Association is only two years old. It came into existence to fight for justice for care leavers because many care leavers face serious discrimination on many different fronts. In particular, we are trying to fight against the perception that care leavers are somehow losers and that children in care are there because they behaved badly or misbehaved. Government figures show that 96 per cent of children in care are there for no fault of their own, but due to family breakdown, abuse and so forth. The general perception in society is that children in care are there because they misbehaved. That then feeds through to care leavers who often are seen as criminalised. We are fighting for an apology from the Government; we are fighting for compensation to be organised with redress on the basis of what has happened in Ireland. I hope the Committee can discuss that. We are fighting for proper access to files because many of the childhood memories of people who have passed through care are in the files which are being kept on them. We are fighting for an end to the restrictions on care leavers not being allowed to foster in certain social services. We are also building a support network. We have a sister organisation in Australia and another in Ireland.

  852. How long has your organisation existed?
  (Mr Frampton) It has existed for two years under the name of the Care Leavers Association. Prior to that it was the National Care Leavers Association, which was a much smaller body.

  853. How long had that been in existence?
  (Mr Frampton) It had been in existence, I believe, for about six years.

  854. How are you funded?
  (Mr Frampton) We have membership fees; we go out and raise money; we ask for donations. We also have just won an award from a small trust, the Tudor Trust, to have a full-time worker for the next three years. In the last two years, it has all been through our own voluntary contributions.

  855. That is helpful. Before we go forward, may I say that we want, if possible, to avoid four answers to every question. There will be some questions on which you have something you strongly feel you need to contribute and on others where you may not. Whilst I would not wish to discourage anybody, we will not get very far if we get four answers to every question. Can I just ask, first of all, if any of your organisations have conducted research to establish the extent of physical and sexual abuse in children's establishments and, if so, is it consistent with the scale of police investigations? Has anybody conducted any research?
  (Mr Frampton) We have not conducted research but we have consulted our members on these issues. Our indications are that the level of numbers of abuse is actually much higher than revealed in the police investigations. There are many people who are not prepared to come forward, for all the reasons which I hope you will have discussed. I was born in care and left the care system at the age of 18. In one home that I know of there are eleven people who allege that they were abused but only two of them possibly will ever go to court because they do not want their lives upset by the idea of going to court. In one sense, that is sad because that means that abusers are left to go free and roam around. Therefore, they may prey on other people's children.

  856. It has been suggested to us by other witnesses that quite a lot of those who have been convicted are wholly innocent. What is your view about that?
  (Mr Byrne) It is always very difficult to comment on police procedures and evidence and those matters in a situation where we are reflecting the needs of the membership of those men who have come forward to us and said, "While being looked after in care in residential schools and approved schools for the last 30 years, we have experienced this kind of abuse". Everybody who has walked into Fire and Ice and who has wanted to make contact with Fire and Ice was abused. We believe they were abused. That is what our project is based upon. We do not seek any more information than that because our project is built upon the support needs, to make sure that those individuals can go and lead positive lives, despite what has happened to them while in the care of the local authority.

  857. I suppose it could be argued by definition that there would be no advantage to anybody who was just interested in the compensation possibilities in getting in touch with you, would there?
  (Mr Byrne) Absolutely not.

  858. You are only likely to attract genuine victims?
  (Mr Byrne) Yes.
  (Kathryn Stone) That would be the same for our organisation, too. I think one of the things that continually humbles us at Voice UK is that people do not want money; they do not want financial compensation. One of the things that is striking is that the parents and carers of the children and vulnerable adults who have been abused in care and in other settings simply want an apology for what has happened to them and they want to make sure that what has happened to their relatives does not happen to someone else. We have not had anyone approach our organisation who is motivated by money or the promise of compensation.

  859. Do you recognise that it is a possibility? I expect you have seen, for example, the Panorama programme called In the Name of the Children. Has anybody here seen that?
  (Mr Byrne) Yes.
  (Mr Frampton) Yes, there is a possibility that one or two people might have made up or fabricated a statement but Rose, Webster and Woffinden who refer to it argue that 90 per cent of these are fabrications.


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