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The Truth Hurts: Why the Government has refused No 2 Abuse its Enquiry

9th Apr 2009 | in Kendall House Child Abuse News

In the wake of startling new discoveries made by Teresa Cooper and in what can only be described as an appalling act of political cowardice, the government has issued a statement confirming that it will resist an enquiry into the illegal drugging of girls at Kendall House and possibly at least six other major care homes around the country.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families has stated that she could not “see the merits” of raising an enquiry in relation to the treatment these girls received during a period which spanned over twenty years. The merits, according to the DCSF have been diminished by the sands of time and by past attempts at addressing similar issues, most notably in Sir William Utting’s 1996 report ‘People Like Us’ and Sir Ronald Waterhouse’s report ‘Lost in care’.

What the DCFS don’t elaborate upon however is the systematic failure of these reports to motivate the government into responding appropriately to the findings and fears over the lack of action post these reports have been voiced as recently as 2005. There are still grave concerns over how children in care are being treated and with mounting pressure from opposition parties and pressure groups like No 2 Abuse, the present government will need to do more than try to faze the public with its tired rhetoric and its superficial spin.

In an article entitled “Updating People Like Us”, the message being put forward is clear: these reports are being revisited today precisely because the government is not responding to the tangible evidence it has before it, which shows an unequivocal need to allow enquiries of this nature to take place so that the problems that have been blighting the care system for over thirty years can finally be tackled. The review itself, which was carried out by consultants Marian Stuart and Catherine Baines, finds that although legislative and policy driven safeguards have been put in place, there is still a sweeping gap between policy and practice. It is that gap that enquiries like the one asked for by Teresa Cooper can and will help reduce.

Yet, perhaps the most worrying sentiment in the latest review of Sir Utting’s report is the acknowledgement that child care professionals still do not have the required knowledge to understand and promote the efficient safeguarding of children. Sir Waterhouse’s report into the scandal behind the locked doors of care homes in North Wales, whilst being much needed exposure, also remained very insular in its outlook and did not strive to reach out to other care homes in the UK where children were being exposed to violence and sexual assault all within a secretive regime that saw many take their lives and even go on to commit murder as a result of their experiences.

Astonishingly, this report was also revisited in 2000 by the Nordic Committee for Human Rights to illustrate, once again, the difficulties of narrow focus on complex and long-running child abuse issues.  This piecemeal approach to a nationwide problem has left with it a legacy of ghosts, which haunt successive governments at sporadic intervals but which will never rest until the issues stemming from these institutions are at once revealed and resolved. There has never been a better time to do this, than now.

With evidence gathered over a period of sixteen years, and from her own personal experience at Kendall House, Teresa Cooper has taken her story to the BBC, who in turn showed Teresa’s care home files to Jeffrey Aronson, professor of clinical pharmacology at Oxford University and President of the British Pharmacological Society. Jeffrey Aronson in his interview with the BBC stated that he had never before seen such large doses of medication being administered to girls and that it was possible that these doses and combinations of drugs were responsible for the subsequent birth defects which arose in the children of the women who were subjected to such treatment at Kendall House. What makes Kendall House so unique in terms of its context when considering the thousands of children who have experienced poor treatment in care homes around the country, is precisely this:  Kendall House used vulnerable girls to test the government’s latest drugs and now it is not just these girls that are paying the price but post adulthood, their children too.

Findings of this nature are rare and whilst the government may be embarrassed to respond to what can only be described as abuse of the worst kind by a state power, the reality is that the Kendall House ladies do not want revenge; they want a chance to prevent children in care from experiencing the same inhuman and degrading treatment they did. An enquiry into why the government is continuously unable to redress the widening gap between law and life will make that difference and unwittingly, could also usher in exciting and hopeful new developments into the reversal of harmful genetic changes caused by drug abuse in the future.

To date, there is also another national outcry waiting in the wings which for the most part has remained largely unreported and relates to children being placed in adult psychiatric units, where they are being exposed to sexual harassment and possibly the administering of inappropriate drugs for sedative purposes. In an article by the Times on October 1st, 2008, yet another report was published, which criticised the government for allowing children to be admitted into adult psychiatric wards despite an explicit promise to stop the practice. Unsurprisingly, finances were a key issue in the government’s reasons for not being able to stop such admissions. The report goes on to cite several other areas of concern, amongst them the lack of awareness young people have in relation to their advocacy rights (which are not being made clear to 80 % of children in these wards) and fewer than one in four trusts allocates young people a key worker with any training in children’s mental health. This last statistic alone should be an alarming wake up call for the government.

With all of these concerns so inextricably linked and so much a part of the day to day malfunctions of our current system, one can only balk at the lackadaisical response our Labour government has given to No 2 Abuse’s request for an enquiry into the events that took place at Kendall House. The scars of being treated as guinea pigs will never leave these ladies and many have already taken their lives, unable to cope with the pain of living with a past that they should never have had to carry.

Many of the girls at Kendall House have gone on to try and remake their lives; some have had children. All of those in the latter category who were contacted and who had suffered massive drug doses, all gave birth to children with neural and physical conditions. Those that were not subjected to the drug treatments and who also gave birth found that their children were born without such problems. A poignant parallel that could not be missed.

An enquiry into Kendall House would offer the government a golden opportunity to finally focus on the child care system in Britain. It would open up the possibility of further research into the frontiers of medicine and the effects of drugs on DNA, which could see the UK leading the world on ground-breaking treatments allowing for defects to be altered before birth or even after. But most of all, it would restore our faith in politics, at a time when we have been let down not just by our banks but by our own beliefs in a democratic system that seems to erode with every injustice.

Comments

  • On 9th Apr 2009 at 08:36 AM Mrs. Mobasher said...

    A brilliant response to what you termed correctly as “a lackadaisical response from our Labour government”.

    More journalists should speak out against what can only be classified as a long and arduous task Teresa Cooper has undertaken to amass this vital evidence which should help many children in care in the future.

    Well done Natasha.

  • On 9th Apr 2009 at 08:49 AM Natasha Phillips said...

    As an aside, I would also like to add that I was deeply disturbed by the DCFS’s spokeswoman’s comment that she could not “see the merits” of an enquiry into Kendall House.

    Other than being a display of bullish insensitivity in relation not only to a woman who has dedicated her life to raising awareness of these atrocities, but also regarding the myriad women and children who have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of this far from humane treatment, the comment also highlights the government’s seminal attitude towards membes of society who cannot offer them short-term profitability.

    Now is the time to take a long view. protected and cared for children of the present are productive and progressive adults of the future.

    And for what it’s worth, the vacuous spokeswoman at the DCSF who passed this cowardly remark should not be serving the British nation in government.

    Have some guts, Labour; put what money you have left where your mouth is. It will be enough to make a change.

  • On 9th Apr 2009 at 02:03 PM Sister Maureen A. Paul Turlish said...

    This should be as unacceptable in the UK as it should be in the US.  Shame!

    I commend Natasha for her position. 

    Thank you,

    Sister Maureen A. Paul Turlish
    Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
    New Castle, Delaware USA

  • On 9th Apr 2009 at 03:32 PM Natasha said...

    Dear Sister Turlish,

    Thank you for your post and your encouragement. The British Broadcasting Corporation feel the same way as you do and did a full day’s coverage on Teresa Cooper’s findings. Teresa has spent over 16 years researching Kendall House and it is her position that I support fully.

    I very much hope that pragmatic changes will be a part of the future for our care homes in England.

  • On 10th Apr 2009 at 10:24 PM Yvonne Stewart-Taylor said...

    This article is extremely well presented and so factual and true. I have already totally lost any faith I had in our Government or system. As a retired local politician myself, having seen so much corruption, having given over twenty years of voluntary service all I can say is our country has totally lost any credibility at all, if indeed it ever had any in the first place. The United Kingdom is an utter disgrace to humanity. We are devoid of leadership and it is time to revolt against tyranny, treason, inhumanity and social decline. What an utter disgrace. How dare these people hold their heads up. We are being oppressively governed by heartless abusive insensitive and spiritually dead morons.

  • On 11th Apr 2009 at 12:05 AM Natasha said...

    Dear Yvonne,

    Many thanks for your comment; to my mind, we just need to get a pragmatic and humane culture back in place. We have allowed the misconception that law will protect the public automatically and systematically but of course for laws to be effective, they need to be effected and for that you need people power!

    Hopefully, as a nation in an economic downturn, we might just get the chance to use this downtime to our advantage and re-assess what really matters to us.

    The core fundamentals are still the same; we need good schools, good education, good healthcare and good justice. And ‘good’ has to mean effective.

  • On 4th May 2009 at 12:56 AM Denise A said...

    Pre May 2007 I thought we lived in a country where innocent children were protected and justice and social services were there to support and help us. This Kendall House abuse along with cases such as my own family’s, (my baby Gt nephew was murdered),test these ‘systems’ to the hilt.  Post May 2007, the more I become aware of cases such as Kendall, and my own family experience, the more I realise that these ‘testing’ cases are turned a blind eye to by the very people who should be listening and learning from them. What I find upsetting is that people like Teresa and those of us who have seen the worst of human nature, have one objective - to prevent it happening to others in the future.  Is it that the politicians and like can’t handle the amount of sorrow involved? Why does it appear that there seems to be an awful lot of them with their heads in the sand?  I for one would have more faith if questions were answered and openness prevailed. None of us have all the answers but surely after experiencing these terrible crimes, when we find the strength within us to try to make things safer for others, can’t they at least listen and respond in a positive manner? Thanks for the article x

  • On 4th May 2009 at 10:09 AM Natasha said...

    Hi Denise,

    I agree with all your points and perhaps the reason governments refuse to touch these issues is that they don’t see any profitability in them.

    It’s going to take a government with guts and a sophisticated view of how to run a country, to pick this enquiry up and deal with it in a mature and responsible fashion.

    Thanks for your comments and I am sorry to hear about your own loss.

    We will all keep plugging away until someone responds appropriately.

  • On 29th May 2009 at 10:54 AM mac said...

    No one in power cares, Even though they claim to, Take this as an example home office given 4 weeks to pay compo to victims of abuse six weeks later still no compo

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