Child sex abuse survivors: a dangerous precedent to withdraw funding

 

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Graham Wilmer, head of the Lantern Project charity Picture reproduced courtesy Rory Wilmer Photography

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

The recent media row over the alleged therapy techniques used by the abuse survivors charity, the Lantern Project, which led to the withdrawal of funding is a dangerous precedent.

The row pushed essentially by two newspapers by the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail ( see article here) could have much wider implications than just in the Wirral where the charity is based.

Essentially the allegations centred around two high profile survivors Esther Baker and one known as ” Darren” . Esther’s allegations are currently being examined by Staffordshire Police in a very detailed investigation which  has already led to one arrest and another person being interviewed under caution.

I am not going to comment further on the investigation particularly as the Solicitor General, Robert Buckland, has warned the media of ” the risk of publishing material that gives the impression of pre-judging the outcome of the investigation and any criminal proceedings that may follow, or which might prejudice any such proceedings.”

Indeed I am frankly surprised that both papers thought  they could comment on an active police investigation by casting doubt on the credibility of a survivor and perhaps there may be a case of drawing this to the attention of the Attorney General.

What more concerns me is the decision of the Wirral Clinical Commissioning Group to withdraw substantial funding for the charity in the wake of the Sunday Times allegations.

The reduction appears to be part of a £20m cut affecting other services but by withdrawing the £150,000 and stating firmly they disagree about the use of the therapy -Unstructured  Therapeutic Disclosure – which some people think can cause the medically  unrecognised false memory syndrome- is specifically aimed at cutting support to survivors. As it says “There is no recognition or recommendation of this approach by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).” And it questions whether the Lantern Project has the skilled staff to do this – even though the charity itself refers people back to the GPs in these cases.

However the effect of the withdrawal of the money  is not confined to just two high profile survivors – one of whom-Darren – doesn’t seem to have received the therapy anyway.

It turns out that the charity has been helping  at least 200 to 400 other families and provides or did provide a website forum for some 1000 survivors in the area. Wirral, faced with these other cuts, is not going to provide any money to other organisations – even if they could provide the services, which they can’t anyway.

Also its stance on staff could have implications for other groups that provide counselling to survivors.The Wirral decision on staffing required could provide an excellent excuse for a cash strapped NHS to withdraw support from other charities by saying they should employ psychotherapists as well as trained counsellors. And it is clear that the NHS is going to face a grim winter just providing  basic high profile services to the elderly and sick.

Those who have been concentrating on attacking the charity for supporting these two high profile cases seem to be totally unaware of the effect on other survivors who will now lose support.

They have not entirely been successful either. Norfolk Police Commissioner’s Office which is distributing the £7m to survivors organisations earmarked by the home secretary, Theresa May, is NOT withdrawing money from the Lantern Project, despite being briefed by Wirral CCG. And subject to a professional audit will continue to do so next year.

And the Daily Mail and Sunday Times coverage has had an unintended consequence- the Lantern Project has received £55,000 in two large donations from survivors or their families helped by the project. The money is part of  large compensation payments awarded by the courts on other cases taken up by the Lantern Project.

This means that the charity can continue to do some – but not all of its work. But the damage to services helping survivors has already been done.

UPDATE Dec 13: Since publication of this blog the Sunday Times (see below) has withdrawn its allegation that Esther Baker received the controversial Unstructured Therapeutic Disclosure at the time she made allegations of child sexual abuse. This does cast some doubt on  Wirral’s decision to withdraw the money.

sunday times correction

 

Why the Church has to atone for decades of child sexual abuse

Just before I went on holiday I penned a piece for Exaro on moves under discussion by the Anglican and Methodists to start tackling  the huge legacy of child sexual abuse by priests and teachers employed by the church..

For once it was more optimistic piece suggesting that at long last church leaders were realising that they had to say more than sorry and had to start taking responsibility for what had happened and is still happening.

I was  a bit taken aback to find some strong Twitter responses suggesting that overnight I had turned from an investigative journalist to an apologist for the Anglican church and a budding correspondent for Church Times. Ironically it came just as the Church appear to think that I might have gone too far in highlighting what they were contemplating before they had reached a final decision.

The piece on the Exaro website highlights the work of the joint safeguarding liaison group for Anglicans and Methodists which is now looking at earmarking money to three groups – including the Lantern project in Wirral – to provide counselling for church sex abuse victims. This move is by itself welcome – given counselling has not been properly provided for thousands of victims whatever the government may like to claim.

The campaign group, Stop Church Child Abuse, says that hundreds of clergy with claims against them of child abuse have not been prosecuted, pointing out that safeguarding procedures allow bishops to keep such allegations away from the authorities. These procedures may not be changed.

Also Exaro has established that the CoE was pressing the government more than a year ago to set up a full-scale inquiry into child sex abuse in a range of institutions in the UK – long before Theresa May, the home secretary, decided to set up an independent panel and when David Cameron was being at best equivocal and at worst ignoring the scale of the problem.

I make no apologies for reporting some of the more positive moves by the Church. But make no mistake I will continue to pursue the issue and investigate the large number of cases where the authorities have failed and people’s lives ruined as a result.