I met Vicky for the first time in April 2017. She was working for a large corporation which had a contract to look after children who were wards of court. Damaged children, many with a history of abuse. ‘Looked After Children’ are not to blame for the situation in which they find themselves. They are the products of broken families or quirks of fate. It is in the interests of all society to ensure that these children are allowed to flourish through contact with willing and caring adults who are committed to their welfare and safety. I take my hat of to Vicky and those like her who do the hands on work of giving ‘Looked After Children’ hope of a constructive adult life, for it is work that I doubt that I would have the emotional strength to undertake myself.
The work that Vicky and so many like her do is some of the most challenging work that any adult can attempt to undertake, work made more difficult by the strictures and structures of Government Regulations and by a culture of secrecy and bullying. This culture of secrecy, this primary objective of avoiding bad publicity or financial penalty has brought us to the corrupted state we are in. Government reports relating to the abuse of young children, including many in state care, have detailed the facts and concluded that child sexual exploitation is commonplace and that the Police Services, Social Services, Local Authorities and Central Government have failed to tackle the ongoing problem – and children continue to suffer today, and child abusers and rapists continue to abuse and rape young children today. (e.g. Rotherham gov.uk/government/publications/reflections-on-child-sexual-exploitation-a-report-by-louise-casey-cb )
Vicky’s Story Whistle Blowing
Vicky was appointed as a manager by a ‘leading care company’, working in a childrens’ care home in a South Yorkshire town having previously worked for another ‘care company’. Early in her time at this care home Vicky realised there were some behavioural issues with the home’s Registered Manager. She believed that the children were being subject to emotional and physical abuse, both within the home and outside it.
“…The first incident was while all staff members were attending a staff meeting, (child A) became very upset that all members of staff were in the meeting. A couple of staff members volunteered to sit with the young person but the Registered Manager refused anyone permission to sit with her. The staff meeting was held at 8am. A young person – Child A – was locked out of the education room so that all staff could attend a team meeting. Child A finds it difficult to be left on her own and was roaming the house on her own and subsequently started to throw and damage her items. When the team meeting had concluded, the Manager instructed that a staff member and I to throw Child A outside to teach them a lesson and that no staff were to talk or even look at the child. It was cold and the child didn’t have a jacket on or any shoes. Child A was locked outside for at least 30 mins and was banging on the door crying and begging to be let back inside. Staff attempted to let her in, however, the Manager stopped them and instructed them to leave her outside. When a staff member looked out of the window to check that Child A was ok, the Manager shouted at the staff member telling her that she was to stop looking out of the window or she would undo all the hard work the Manager had done. As they were leaving, staff were instructed to ignore Child A. The Manager watched as the staff left to make sure they followed her instructions. I challenged the Manager informing her that what she was doing was wrong. I was told that I needed to think and act more like a manager myself. “
After this experience, Vicky resolved to record her experiences and make a written diary. Vicky found that the problem was even worse.
“…Child B went missing from care, she was absent for over 24 hours. When Child B returned, staff wanted to give Child B some food and run her a bath. The experienced Shift Leader on shift had informed a staff member not to make the child any food or run her a bath as the Manager did not allow this and would go ‘off her head’. Staff agreed not to tell the Manager but to make the child a bit of toast and run her a bath. Under the Childrens Homes regulations, once a child has been missing, every effort should be made to make children feel welcome, this includes making sure they are clean and fed.”
“…I spoke to Child B about her low mood. She told me that she had been kept in the home for 4 weeks now with no free time or activities. This meant the young person was only allowed out to attend school. Child B informed me that the Manager ‘looks for any opportunity to stop me having a life, she makes things blown up to punish her’. Child B advised that she had requested a complaint form to put a complaint in and that staff refused this. I offered her one and Child B stated ‘no its ok now, the Manager scares me and I know she will make my life difficult’. I advised her that there are different ways to make complaints and she shouldn’t feel threatened or intimidated.”
“…Charity bag packing event at Hemsworth. Child A was due to go but she has an irrational fear of elderly people. Leading Staff member was told to keep Child A there all day, this was unrealistic due to Child A’s anxiety and fear of elderly people. I spoke to a staff member and advised to keep Child A with them for a short while and then return her. I was then told that the Manager had instructed the staff to keep Child A out all day as she ‘f**** her off and she can’t get anything done with her there’. Staff went against my advice and kept Child A out the whole day. This was not an enjoyable experience for Child A.”
“Child C. While I was on shift Child C informed me that she was on her period and the Manager had stopped their money because it was nearly Christmas and they needed to save. I checked the monies, the Manager had removed all this money placing it in savings. I called the Manager stating that the young people need toiletries including things for their periods. I was advised by the Manager that ‘they should have bought them at the beginning of the month and not wasted money’. This is taking away their human rights. I used my own money to get all the young people toiletries.
The Manager made the young people eat vegetarian food, this was because she was a vegetarian herself. Again this is against their human rights, they are allowed to choose what type of food they eat.”
“…I had now decided to walk away and report these incidents to OFSTED and the more senior staff at the company. Within a week I received a letter stating I myself was under investigation for recording on a mobile device. I did not record anything on any device, I recorded everything in my diary. I now found myself having to defend allegations that were untrue. I believe this was a way to shut me up, however, they underestimated me. I called the company who decided to visit my house to interview me. I went through my whole diary and at the end I informed them no matter what they throw at me I will not be going away NO MATTER WHAT!!”
At Vicky’s request, I accompanied her to an interview when she was summonsed by her employer after she had been informed that she was under investigation. I attended this interview to provide her with moral support and to act as her witness to the interview by the company’s nominated (internal) investigation manager.
A company in the care sector is incentivised by our blame culture and the contractual nature of our corporatised care system, to bury problems, hide the truth and operate a closed culture of secrecy. Vicky’s experiences are mirrored throughout our country as those who really understand the difference between right and wrong who also will not be silenced, are often bullied, sacked, persecuted and hounded by state institutions.
“…I could go on about all the things that happened (during my time at the care home), however I do need to be careful as I’m still going through some cases. I spent many hours in meetings, it was again clear they were attempting to shut me up or trip me up. After all this the Manager was allowed back to work, then only to find she had been suspended within weeks of returning. WHAT HAS SHE DONE NOW??? I called to ask letting them know that I had warned them and they took no notice, apart from changing some practices. Children homes now are just about making money and not actually caring for children.”
Vicky is now working as a volunteer for the Democrats & Veterans Party, as am I. We are both determined, along with our colleagues, to address the corruption within our Government and state Institutions that lies at the heart of this problem that our country, to its shame, has generated. We hope other whistle blowers will join us and coalesce to provide the cultural change and political will required to address these and other problems of institutional failure.
Never forget that words are cheap and those who suffer are the most vulnerable in our midst – children – and the mental, physical and sexual abuse they suffer is the legacy of political failures, the attack on the family unit and family values, Government policy failures and the absence of open accountability and justice.
In Part 2, Vicky will recount her story of a one year old child being removed from a mother. The mother is a young woman who’s care Vicky was involved with for three years.
©James Dalton, Vicky Felton, Denise Sayles – Democrats & Veterans Party, for Direct Democracy.