Full report HERE
SUMMARY OF THE FINDINGS – published 13TH JULY 2016
The findings are harrowing. They reveal an institution which had weak governance and oversight. A place where control, containment and sometimes cruelty were normalised.
A place where vulnerable girls, many previously and repeatedly let down by their parents, social services and other agencies, were caught in a regime that in many ways sought to rob them of their individuality, of hope, and in some cases of their liberty.
Girls as young as 11 were routinely and often without any initial medical assessment given anti depressants, sedatives and anti-psychotic medication. Often these drugs were given dosages which exceeded usual prescribed adult levels. This served to control their behaviour, placing them in a constant stupor, restricting their ability to communicate, or have any personal autonomy. The drugs put them at risk of numerous side effects and of which were distressing. The effects of the drugs also increased their vulnerability to emotional, physical and a smaller number of cases, sexual abuse. Those that resisted faced sanctions – this included being locked alone in a room for long periods.
MORE DETAILED FINDINGS
With only one exception, every former resident who spoke with us experienced being placed, sometimes forcibly, in this locked room. Isolated from their peers, and often heavily sedated, they could be kept in the room for days on end. Every former resident witnessed others being placed in this room. On at least two occasions, girls were placed in straitjackets, others were threatened with transfer to a local mental health hospital. In some cases threats were enacted, and girls were admitted to the adult ward of the hospital before returning to Kendall House, often traumatised.
The practice of over medication was seen in the early 1960’s and was prevalent during the late 1960’s and until the 1980’s. Examples of sustained practice of this nature, albeit less frequent, were identified into the mid-1980s until the closure of the home in 1986.
Why were girls placed at Kendall House? A variety of reasons were identified. For some it was deemed a place of safety, others were on remand after committing offences such as theft, violent acts or anti social behaviour. Some had very troubled, fractured or violent family backgrounds, others had psychological or behavioural problems and were felt to be in need of a secure and structured home placement. Placements ranged from a matter of weeks to over four years.
Whatever the reason for their admission, none anticipated or deserved the treatment they received there. In a regimented, rigid culture , where docile conformity was demanded, girls were supervised by a largely unqualified workforce, who in turn were led by the dominant and authoritarian figure of the superintendent, until 1985 when she retired. Information was not shared, communication between the leadership and the staff was poor, and until the mid 1980’s virtually no training or supervision for staff was provided. For the girls they, they too had little if any information about why they were there, and contact and correspondence with their families and social workers was restricted and controlled.
Between 1967 and 1983, medical leadership was provided by Dr Perinpanayagam, a psychiatrist from a nearby hospital who visited regularly. After 1983, a second psychiatrist then fulfilled a narrower oversight role for training and encouraged a different model of care and treatment, one that had less reliance on medication. When he left in 1985, medical oversight was provided through the local general practitioners, supported by psychiatrists from the local hospital until Kendall House closed in December 1986.
Concerns about the medication regime at Kendall House were raised during the 1970’s and 1980’s by residents and their parents, by some social workers and by some employees. All were either ignored, rebuked, ridiculed, or belittled by those in positions of authority in the home. Few, if any of these concerns resulted in changes to the regime at the home.
Wider concerns about the medication of children in institutions were raised by academics and the press in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, and received ministerial comment. Public requests were made by these bodies to review the use of medication in Kendall House. This did not happen. It was felt to be a matter for clinical decision. No opportunity to review, address or formally challenge the concerns was taken.
Kendall House was first subject to formal regulatory inspection in 1984 and only then were many aspects of the regime challenged and some changes made. It was re-inspected at the end of 1985, and whilst some improvements had been made, concerns about the use of medication and the use of locked isolation room for residents remained.
GIRLS DRUGGED AND ABUSED AT CHURCH OF ENGLAND CHILDREN’S HOME, SAYS REPORT
By Tom Pugh, Press Association
Vulnerable girls at a “toxic and destructive” Church of England children’s home were drugged and sexually and physically abused over nearly 20 years, a report has revealed.
Revelations of sexual abuse, ill-treatment and physical abuse at Kendall House in Gravesend, Kent, between 1967 and 1986 were outlined in an independent review.
It disclosed how girls as young as 11 were routinely, and often without medical assessment, given powerful anti-depressants, sedatives and anti-psychotic drugs.
Those that resisted, challenged or overcame the drugs’ effects faced sanctions, including being locked alone in a room for days on end or emotionally abused.
Others told how they were raped after being imprisoned in an isolation room and locked in alone overnight. And for some, the trauma of living at Kendall House lasts to this day, the review said.
The review said: “The findings are harrowing. They reveal an institution which had weak governance and oversight, a place where control, containment and sometimes cruelty were normalised.
“A place where vulnerable girls, many previously and repeatedly let down by their parents, social services and other agencies, were caught in a regime that in many ways sought to rob them of their individuality, of hope, and in some cases of their liberty.”
It added: “The evidence we have heard and read during this review tells of a place which was, on the whole, toxic and constructive to the girls placed there.”
Drugs were administered in dosages which exceeded usual prescribed adult levels to control girls’ behaviour, placing them in a constant stupor, and restricting their ability to communicate or learn, it added.
Launched last year by the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev James Langstaff, the review found the effects of the abuse have led to many “broken lives”.
The report named consultant psychiatrist Dr Perinpanayagam, who was a medical advisor to Kendall House, as a key adviser on drug treatment for residents. He retired in 1983 and died in 1988.
The 137-page report also revealed how:
:: Every resident placed at Kendall House was “vulnerable to the risk” of emotional, physical or sexual abuse by staff, other residents or third parties;
:: Every former resident spoken to by the review team had suffered abuse;
:: Some girls were placed in straitjackets, and
:: Some former residents went on to attempt suicide;
Claims had been made before the review that some former residents who had been drugged went on to have babies with birth defects.
But review panel member Ray Galloway said: “Birth defects were not a significant element of what was mentioned by the ladies in interview.”
Although around 20 legal claims brought by ex-residents have been made, none have been brought relating to birth defects, Mr Langstaff said.
The review said residents were frequently sedated to an extent where they could not walk, speak or have control over their normal daily activities.
None of the perpetrators of the abuse are still alive. The review also noted that the home operated under a “regimented, rigid culture, where docile conformity was demanded”.
Girls were supervised by a largely unqualified workforce led by a “dominant and authoritarian” figure, Doris Law, who is now dead.
The review recommends the dioceses of Rochester and Canterbury make payments to all ex-residents who took part in the review.
Opened in the 1920s, Kendall House was a home for vulnerable girls aged from 11 to 16 who were mainly placed there by their local authority. It closed in 1986.
Since 2006, pressure has mounted on the Church to examine the slew of claims of abuse and mistreatment from former residents of the now-defunct home.
Then last year Mr Langstaff set up the review, chaired by Professor Sue Proctor, who led the inquiry into Jimmy Savile’s reign of abuse at Leeds Teaching Hospitals.
Prof Proctor described the Church’s initial response to allegations about Kendall House as “woeful” and inadequate”. And she said the administration of powerful drugs appeared to have an “experimental approach”.
She described the commissioning of the review as overdue. And she said that for the vulnerable girls, Kendall House was a “frightening, violent and unpredictable” place.
Mr Langstaff said the diocese “apologised unreservedly” for the suffering caused.