CAMDEN COUNCIL SOCIAL SERVICES
In Camden – as with so many other London councils – accusations of institutional abuse surface from the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s, with claims of gross negligence in child protection and failure to properly deal with allegations of abuse. Included are:
- Stockgrove Park School – a brilliantly detailed blog has been written by Cathy about the matters concerning this school that was located in Buckinghamshire.
- Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club – where a former coach, Bill Blake, was accused of abuse by former pupils dating back to 1960s.
RICHMOND VALE ACADEMY
In 1983 Camden Council – under the guise of a money-saving exercise – decided to send a number of “delinquent youths” across the water to St Vincent in the Caribbean, described as follows:
The Richmond Vale Academy in the north of St Vincent specialises in educating young people who have been in trouble.
It is a campus of airy single-storey buildings, set among banana plantations, and is still being built. When it is completed this year it will have room for 200 students.
As well as providing academic education, it is also a technical college teaching carpentry, car mechanics, fishing, agriculture and crafts. It has a small farm, on which students work, and is becoming self-sufficient in food.
Unfortunately for some, the idealistic view of rehabilitation in a tropical setting was allegedly a world away from their experience. It wasn’t long before stories emerged in the press about students being fined, using drugs and charged with theft before ending up in front of the Vincentian police, but it wasn’t until one boy wrote home to his father with claims of smoking marijuana, theft of jewelly and sex with his carers that interest picked up.
It’s nearly impossible to find any reference about the decision by London Social Services departments to ship off vulnerable children half way around the world for a year at a time. It’s almost reminiscent of former criminal transportation, but designed for children!
TVIND COOPERATIVE PROJECT
The Tvind Project originated in Denmark in the 1960s, started up by a group of revolutionary teachers but paid for by the state. As the project grew, so it expanded out of Denmark and to other countries, such as St Vincent and Grenadine. This communal organisation sent all money centrally, which was then shared. Behind the image of community based charities and assistance grew a multi-million pound empire. But even as early as the 1980s, questions were being asked about their finances which eventually blew open a hornet’s nest of accusations of embezzlement, financial mismanagement, cult-like behaviour and questionable associations.
For some children in care their cards were marked. The system labelled them ‘delinquents’ and stated they had come to the ‘end of the road’. The choice was an approved school in the UK or a new innovative rehabilitation school in the idylic setting of the Caribbean. The answer came down to money. The Caribbean, claimed the councils, was considerably cheaper, stating costs of £500 per week to keep a child in an approved school as opposed to £350 per week for Richmond Vale Academy in St Vincent.
Camden Council were the first to employ this new way of thinking and in April 1983 four boys were sent to the newly built Richmond Vale School in St Vincent. By March 1984 there were 17 children from across London at the school.
- 4 from Camden;
- 11 from Lewisham;
- 1 from Hounslow; and
- 1 from Westminster.
When a 15 year old boy from Camden (labeled a delinquent for persistent truancy) wrote to his dad alleging he was now smoking drugs, had stolen jewellery and had sex with his tutor that the press began to take an interest. Social workers decided to fly out to St Vincent to investigate the claims at the cost of £2,000 to the taxpayer (so I’m not sure just how much savings they actually made, all things considered). Upon their return, a press conference was called by Joe Walsh (Camden’s Social Services area group head) and Vicki Jung (a social worker) reported that:
“Some marijuana had been smoked and one Camden boy had broken in to a local petrol station and stolen £5, but their behaviour was much milder than we would have expected them to get up to here in Britain and (we) feel unreservedly positive about the course”.
The Social Services chairman for Camden, Alan Woods said:
These are kids with whom all else has failed. We may now consider sending others who have not yet reached the end of the line”.
Mr Walsh also stated that the Danish Tvind cooperative were planning to open a British centre called ‘The Future of Britain’, to add to their schools in Norway, Denmark and St Vincent.
- The Times Newspaper
- The Ham & High
- BBC News