Barbara Kahan pioneered the development of social work in UK with children and families, taking it on as a career from 1948 and its very inception. From the point at which she took her first post at Dudley in 1948 as Children’s Officer where she created its first local authority children’s home to spending 1951 – 1970 building Oxfordshire’s cohesive approach to social services, working closely with her husband an Oxford based child psychiatrist, managing Louis Minster (9 years before he was to become Director of Social Services at Richmond), as County Care Child Officer for Oxfordshire in the mid 1960s to taking opinion from Peter Righton report on Staffordshire’s Pin Down regime in the 1991 report and championing distance learning education particularly for residential children’s care workers – a special interest of Righton’s.
Due to Kahan’s pioneering role, she is a person around which others have pivoted in their roles within their remit of child welfare whether for the state or charities. Despite Kahan’s formal retirement from civil service in 1980 her continued influence and kudos was demonstrated when she was asked to work on the Pin Down report 10 years post retirement, in her early 70s.
Her life’s work in essence was the transferral of responsibility for children in care from the government to the local authority. I haven’t yet read the Pin Down report in full but will need to. However, it’s interesting to look at her life’s work, where she spent her time and efforts and who she influenced, managed or sought opinion from during her career before looking further at the report.
As Ian Pace points out on his blog (featuring much detailed information on Peter Righton, some of which is featured in the chronology below): “In 1981, Righton published his most blatant article to date, ‘The adult’, in Brian Taylor (ed), Perspectives on Paedophilia (London: Batsford, 1981), pp. 24-40. Drawing upon an unholy canon of paedophile writers, Righton made the case for sex with children being unharmful, in his characteristically elegant manner. No-one who read this could have been in any doubt about Righton’s inclinations (or the nature of the volume in general).”
Despite Righton’s public clues to his private life Kahan still invited Righton’s advice for the Pin Down report in 1991, speaking publicly In The Secret Life of a Pedophile (BBC’s Inside Story documentary – see below) about Righton’s explanation to her for his conviction for child abuse images and the shield his homosexuality gave him from the suggestion that underage sex was underage sex no matter which underage gender he was interested in.
Kahan concludes at 42:50: “I feel that perhaps I should have made the connections earlier, but the difficulty is that first of all somebody presents themselves in the way that Peter presented himself. Secondly, he took enormous trouble, now in retrospect to keep his private life from his professional life and thirdly one would have hesitated to extend ideas beyond the fact that he was homosexual into other fields, but in many respects he must be seen as a conman. He certainly conned a wide range of people in the social work world who I’m sure feel as upset about is as I do.”
[With many thanks to @snowfaked – Troy on Twitter, Spotlight On Abuse, @murunbuch and @ian_pace for much of resources signposted below]
Tributes flood in for child expert
Chronology of Kahan’s, Minster’s and Righton’s careers
Barbara Langridge was born in 1920 in Horsted Keynes Sussex to a family employed in the railways – Methodist upbringing
In 1939, aged 19 at the start of World War II she studied at Cambridge University, Newnham College and re-started the Labour Club there.
1943 – 1948: Factory Inspector, working for the government – hears about Lady Allen of Hurtwood and cries at the Curtis Report
1948 – Children’s Act
1950s – the growth of Child Care Officers and Residential Local Authority Care
In 1949 Kahan, now almost 30, became Children’s Officer in Dudley and the growth of Family Service Units focused on preventing families being separated. She had employed ex-PSU workers to do preventive work and expanded in 1952 and this led to family caseworker roles being created in Oxford City Council (next to Dudley, Oxfordshire County Council) in 1953 and the London County Council picked up the idea with the Kensington and Paddington Family Service Unit providing training for their two new preventive workers employed.
In Dudley Kahan had opened the first local authority run children’s home in 1949. She abolished corporal punishment in Oxfordshire homes in 1951.
Families and Social Workers:The Work of Family Service Units, 1940-1985. Contributors: Pat Starkey – Author. Publisher: Liverpool University Press. Place of publication: Liverpool, England. Publication year: 2000.
‘The message that preventive work with families could facilitate the achievement of an acceptable level of functioning, and avoid the separation of parents and children with the resultant call on public finances, was one that received ready acceptance among some senior local authority officials. Those newly appointed children’s officers who had taken on board some of the lessons of the PSU/FSU experiment, although stopping short of inviting the agency to work in their areas, found that by employing family casework methods they could avoid excessive expenditure and provide a high level of care. Barbara Kahan, who had been appointed children’s officer in Dudley in 1949, deliberately employed an ex-PSU worker, Frank Rumball, to do preventive work, 47 and she continued the practice when she left the authority a couple of years later. As children’s officer for Oxfordshire County Council, she calculated that George Harnor, the PSU-trained preventive worker she engaged in 1952, had helped to keep 50 children from 13 families out of care. Her experiment was watched with interest by other children’s officers, with the result that a family caseworker post was created by the neighbouring Oxford City Council in 1953 and posts for two preventive workers were shortly afterwards established by the London County Council (LCC). 48 The LCC workers were sent to the Kensington and Paddington FSU for training in casework methods, a further reinforcement of the organisation’s reputation. 49′ (pp. 85-86)‘Public plaudits like these, which understandably delighted FSU, suggest that there was an identifiable FSU method and that it was the only organisation working in what was perceived to be a particularly valuable and appropriate way. Both assumptions were inaccurate. PSU/FSU may have pioneered a particular approach to intervention in the lives of problem families, but by the early 1960s it no longer had a monopoly on family casework, and the process of extending the practice to other agencies was already well underway before the Ingleby committee reported. It is not surprising that those who had experience of implementing it were quick to draw attention to the fact. Barbara Kahan, a long-time supporter of PSU/FSU-inspired methods of intensive work with families, pointed out in response to Ingleby that such methods were no longer a relatively unknown experiment. 13 She had employed PSU-trained caseworkers to do preventive work during her time as children’s officer, first in Dudley from 1948 and then in Oxfordshire from 1951. 14 In neither Dudley nor Oxfordshire did Kahan advocate the establishment of an FSU, but instead demonstrated that the methods originally associated with FSU could be transferred easily and effectively into a statutory agency. She argued that by keeping one family with three children out of care, a family caseworker would save the children’s committee the cost of his annual salary and justify his employment. 15 Although she was not hostile to voluntary agencies, Kahan believed that good local authority services were fundamental to the solution of family problems, and in 1961 urged that the ‘… door on which all can knock, knowing that their knock will be answered by people with the knowledge and capacity and with the willingness to help them’ which Ingleby had advocated should have children’s department written on it. 16 The City of Oxford children’s department and the London County Council (LCC) department of dealth had followed Kahan’s example and had appointed family caseworkers in the 1950s, 17 something that did not go unnoticed by FSU. 18 The organisation’s sense of its worth was further enhanced when those recruited to work with the LCC were sent for training in casework methods to the Kensington and Paddington unit. 19 Central government endorsement of the method had come in 1954 with the Ministry of Health circular ‘Prevention and break-up of families’, which suggested that local authorities might find it necessary to employ trained social caseworkers to meet the needs of some families. 20’ (pp. 100-101)
1960s – Annual Conferences in Scarborough, National Children’s Homes employ child care officers
Commentary by Johnny Morris. Shows life in NCH residential child care projects, with particular reference to careers guidance and aftercare. Projects featured: Chipping Norton Branch; Edgworth Branch with the boys at work; Alverstoke Branch, its Superintendent Trevor Thomas, and a worker Dianne Dean, Elmfield School. Careers and aftercare staff featured: Miss Gautrey, Careers Officer; Mrs Hiam, Senior Social Worker; Louis Minster, Child Care Officer; Peggy Miller, Child Care Officer. Also shows: John Waterhouse, Principal; John Gale, a child care administrator. Junior boys are shown in one Home using a furnace to heat metal while making a wrought iron stand. [NCH Print & Media items list here – the Harpenden Highfield Oval home interestingly had a printworks in operation until 1970s]
For a flavour of the innovative style of work that was going on in Oxforshire, Barbara Kahan also worked with Lucy Faithful and Professor Christopher (Kit) Ounsted to pull together what was viewed as a model social services offering:“Ounsted had wide respect for other professional disciplines which allowed him to share responsibility for children and their families with social services and occupational therapists. This was reciprocated. Thus, Oxford psychiatry, through the Park Hospital and social services in the city and county of Oxford (in collaboration with Lucy Faithful and Barbara Kahan ), was for a long period seen as providing a model service. These links were facilitated by the brilliant insights that emerged from psychosocial research.He and colleagues described some of the responses of abused children by the coining of the phrases “frozen watchfulness” and “gaze aversion” to depict reactions of such children to their abusive environment; and also the critical path of events which often led inexorably to abuse, derived from comparing the biographies of abused children with their unharmed siblings (with Margaret Lynch, Rhoda Oppenheimer and Jackie Roberts). Then Ounsted turned his attention to adopted families referred for psychiatric advice (with Michael Humphrey).” Obituary Dr Christopher Ounsted Times, The (London, England) – Tuesday, October 27, 1992
The 1970s / The Home Office under Ted Heath’s Conservative government
The Finer Committee (1969 – 1973)
“Events in Britain have characteristically taken a more ponderous course. The Finer Committee on one-parent families recommended the establishment of a unified and independent family court in 1974. But the government demurred. Barbara Castle, then secretary of state for health and social security, recorded in her diaries being briefed by the then Lord Chancellor: “Elwyn was charming as usual and convinced me that the elaborate new machinery Finer proposes is just not on”.
But since Finer there has been a growing — if thwarted — consensus; more than 100 organisations have come out in favour of reform, including the Law Society, the nspcc and the British Association of Social Workers. The Family Courts Campaign, formed in November 1985, metamorphosed from an ad hoc umbrella organisation into a permanent pressure group.
What has put fresh hope into campaigning now is the arrival of a new Chancellor, Lord Havers. In his first speech from the Woolsack on 21 July he indicated his support for the principle of a family court. He had rather endearingly confessed that his views have been influenced by his sister, Mrs Justice Butler-Sloss, a family judge in the high court who is also chairing the Cleveland inquiry.
One straightforward problem is money. The Treasury, say campaigners somewhat grimly, will have to be persuaded. Lord McGregor, an Alliance peer who sat on the Finer Committee and has been a supporter of family courts ever since, points out that the Lord Chancellor’s department is traditionally a low spender, and requests for a special expenditure programme would hardly be welcome to the government.
But the debate about money is not so straightforward. Those advocating family courts argue that reform need not be as expensive as the government assumes. Research by Judge Jean Graham Hall suggests that a streamlined family court could bring about savings in court time, administration and legal aid bills.
Nevertheless, Lord Havers did say unequivocally in the Lords’ debate last month that an independent and unified family court with its own accommodation, staff and judiciary “is not one which my government would consider affordable.” Fear of extra expenditure may incline the government to some administrative tinkering, such as eliminating overlap between courts or designating part of the existing county and high court structure.” [Justice for families – 7 August 1987, New Society, Vol 81 – 82]
“In October 1971, here listed as a ‘lecturer in residential care’ for the National Institute for Social Work, and ‘director-designate of the centre to be established by the National Children’s Bureau later this year’, Righton addressed a social services conference organized by the County Councils Association and the Association of Municipal Corporations, arguing for integration of social workers with residential home staff, and against too-frequent placing of those with social, physical and mental handicaps in residential homes. He also thought children ‘could be greatly helped in a residential unit’.” [See Ian Pace’s blog for Righton]
“The wider question for disquiet is what happened to the two individuals mentioned in Sir Michael’s statement who shared an obsession about the systematic killing by sexual torture of young people and children. They were prosecuted at St Albans – and conditionally discharged. Such execution of the law singularly fails to match the sense of public outrage.” Source: The Times 20.03.81
(March – May 1981 furore over Dickens MP use of Parliamentary Privilege) Why the DPP resurrected an ancient law to deal with paedophiles (The Guardian, 14/03/1981, Alan Rusbridger) Criticism as ‘judge made law’
The Sunday People don’t appear to have reported the Elm Guest House raid in August 1982 although under the editorship of (the later, Sir) Nicholas Lloyd (1982-1983) The Sunday People did publish articles in 1983. Elm Guest House: How a powerful paedophile network was covered-up for 34 years (August 1982)
But meanwhile in Putney, July 1981 – Royal Wedding, 9 year old Vishal Mehotra goes missing
- Wednesday 29 July 1981: Prince Charles marries Princess Diana
- Lost boys last walk is retraced (Daily Express, 04/08/1981) ‘Boy who vanished on day of Royal Wedding’ (Daily Mirror, 03/03/1982) 9 year old Vishal Mehotra goes missing on the Royal Wedding day. Leaving his home in Holm Bush Road, Putney to go to a local shop he vanished until in March 1983, 6 months later his remains are found. Just over a month before the Royal One Year Anniversary Elm Guest House is raided, perhaps significant in the context of what Scotland Yard may have known concerning Kings & Queens parties taking place. Spotlight: Was the investigation by Scotland Yard into missing boys stopped?
Wednesday June 23 1982: Gossip reaches dog-walkers on the Common near Rocks Lane according to Jilly Cooper’s journals?
July 1982 – Geoffrey Prime PIE Spy charged
- On 20th July 1982, Margaret Thatcher told Parliament that Prime had been charged under the Official Secrets Act. (Guardian 21/07/1982)
- 23rd July 1982: Tom O’Carroll released after 16 months in jail (23.7.82), Capital Gay
- 25 July 1982 Charles Oxley who had infiltrated PIE, attends one of their meetings butPeter Bremner announced that he thinks PIE has been infiltrated and Oxley considers his position untenable, in attending any further.
Seven weeks on from Jilly Cooper’s journal entry for The Common Years, news of a raid at an an address in Rocks Lane, Barnes breaks in the national press…
August 1982 – Elm Guest House Story Breaks…and is silenced
- Saturday 7 August 1982 The Elm Guest House story at Rocks Lane, Barnes, West London, broke on 7th August 1982, when the Daily Express reported that “at least three MPs, a member of staff at Buckingham Palace, and leading lawyers, doctors and City businessmen” were questioned as part of inquires relating to “a vice ring” in “a brothel in a smart London suburb”.
- Monday 9 August 1982 Spotlight: Was Scotland Yard investigation into missing boys stopped? More houses face probe by vice team (Daily Express, Monday 09/08/1982)
- Friday 14 August 1982 Police hunt VIPs in den of vice (News of the World, 14/08/1982, Jeff Edwards): Visitors alleged to be MPs, Buckingham Palace staff, doctors, lawyers and businessmen.
“Scotland Yard has denied there had been a cover-up to try to protect MPs and other important visitors to the house. They say the case is a routine investigation being conducted by officers from Richmond police station. Clients are not normally involved in investigations into brothels. But because a schoolboy is alleged to have been one of the major attractions at Rocks Lane police say clients must be traced.”
- Head hits out at in ‘scandal’ row (Daily Express, 10/09/1982)
- A lust too gross to allow (The Guardian, 24/09/1982)
- Police drop the worst Elm House charges (Capital Gay, Friday 01/10/1982)
Children who were evicted from The Hollies were sent 200 miles away to the Bryn Alyn home in North Wales, which is now known to have been staffed by paedophiles who abused countless children in their care. See Southwark Council and Bryn Alyn
The Hollies is now being investigated as one of 21 children’s homes and schools where Jimmy Savile is suspected to have abused children. BBC News – Jimmy Savile: Schools and children’s homes face investigation
“The Open University announce 16 new honorary graduands including Mrs Barbara Kahan , director of the Child Care Open Learning Project. [The Times, April 14 1987]The Times 1 October 1987 reported a luncheon held for the National Children’s Home Lady Henrietta St George was host at a luncheon held yesterday by the National Children’s Home at the Waldorf Hotel to help children in danger and families in need. Miss Angela Rippon, Miss Nerys Hughes and Mrs Norma Rose, National Co-ordinator of NCH Careline, also spoke. Among others present were:The Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne, the Countess of Lovelace, baroness Cox, Lady Murray of Epping Forest. Lady Buckhurst, Lady Murray of Gravesend, Lady Lucas of Chilworth, Lady Young of Graffham, the Hon Mrs Nicholas Soames, the Hon Mrs Charlotte Hambro, the Hon Mrs Jeremy Soames, the Hon Mrs Tatiana Bradford, Lady Vincent, Lady Ridsdale, Professor Barbara Kahan , Mrs Debbie Moore, Mrs Patti Clapton, Miss June Mendoza, Miss Joanna Monro, Mrs David Heathcoat-Amory and Mrs Richard Beckett.”
1989 February 5 The Sunday Times: A generation in the fashion trap – Childhood“A million mothers have full- or part-time jobs today 300,000 of them with children under five and nursery school teachers report that many of the toddlers delivered by nanny, au pair, or helpful neighbour arrive with little idea of independent play. “That’s the biggest change I’ve noticed since I started 18 years ago,” said one last week. “So many of them now expect to be constantly entertained. When we show them something and then walk away, leaving them to get on with it, they look dumbfounded.”Access to such schools is increasingly important. With smaller families (two is the norm, four becoming a rarity, and only-children still inexorably on the rise), they offer the best chance for toddlers to make friends and see the world beyond the television.But despite quarter of a century of promises the target set in the 1960s was places for 50% of three-year-olds and 90% by the time they reached four no more than one in four gets a chance to try out the sandpit. Playgroups are only marginally more available, registered childminders can meet only 4% of potential demand, and day nurseries, common throughout the rest of Europe, barely exist.It is this kind of mismatch, between aspiration, need and actual provision, that tarnishes much of today’s childhood experience. To quote Partridge again: “It can seem bizarre to send `home’ a pre-term baby, after two to three months of highly technological and extremely expensive care, to an unmarried teenage mother living in a single room on `bed-and-breakfast’ with another child.”Such cases were much in the minds of the National Children’s Bureau when it met last week to set its agenda for the 1990s. In the words of Barbara Kahan , the bureau’s chairman, “the inequalities people inherit when `choosing’ their parents are worsened by the increasing gaps in society between the `haves’ and the `have nots”‘. And even for the haves, there are minuses to offset much of the plus. Everything they own may represent the best that sophistication can choose and money buy as in the photograph above but does it really compensate for the loss of yesterday’s fresh innocence and casual independence?”
“Allan Levy and Barbara J Kahan (1991) The Pindown Experience and the Protection of Children: The Report of the Staffordshire Child Care Inquiry 1990 Stafford: Staffordshire County Council 0 903363 49 6
This inquiry, established in June 1990 and reporting a year later, chronicles the development between 1983 and 1989 in Staffordshire children’s homes of a method of controlling children known as ‘Pindown’. It was initiated by a qualified social worker and sustained over a number of years by untrained staff who thought that what they were doing was sanctioned by an ‘expert’. Senior staff did not enquire too closely into the methods used because the county was under serious financial constraints and the methods appeared both to work and to be cost-effective.
It is probably best read alongside Cliffe and Berridge (1992) which chronicles what was happening in another county without the same financial constraints but with similar attitudes and beliefs about the respective roles of social work and residential care.”
Peter Righton gave evidence to the Pindown Inquiry in 1991 – see this article for that information [ Britain’s Top Kiddie’s Home Expert is Child Sex Perv, 17 September 1992]. This was of course long after his pro-paedophile articles in Social Work Today and Perspectives on Paedophilia (published in 1981), as well as his position with PIE having been made clear in an issue of Understanding Paedophilia – all of this is chronicled on Ian Pace’s blog here
1991: Letter to The Times from Lady Wagner
From Lady Wagner
Sir, Had the government paid more attention to the recommendations made by the Independent Review into Residential Care in 1988, some of the problems that have now arisen with regard to children’s homes in Staffordshire (report, May 30) might have been avoided.
The review covered all aspects of residential care, including residential care for children. Recommendation 16 said:
Information about the agency’s complaints procedure should be made available to children and parents. Children in all forms of residential care should have access to an independent advocate. Consideration should be given to extending the system of guardian ad litem to enable families and children to request a guardian ad litem to safeguard children’s interests.
The report also recommended that the Department of Health should draw up national guidelines for the registration and inspection of residential establishments and should give equal attention to standards of accommodation, quality of life and the qualifications of management and staff. It further recommended that to ensure independence and impartiality no agency should undertake the inspection of its own residential establishments.
Shortly after the report was published the Wagner Development Group was set up to try to ensure that the review was fully considered and conscious decisions made about its recommendations. It is still in being and one of its sub-groups is working on a charter for children and young people living in groups, under the chairmanship of Barbara Kahan .
Credit is due to the government for establishing the “Caring in Homes” initiative, with a grant of Pounds 2.2 million, aimed at improving life for people in residential homes by providing training for staff in homes, better information for the public in making choices and better management of homes among its objects. A conference is shortly to be held to make public the interim results of the work that has already been done.
Why is there sudden discussion in the national press about a service which should concern us all only at times of crisis? Must it always take a scandal to make the importance of good quality residential care for all who need it hit the headlines?
GILLIAN WAGNER (Chairman, Indepndent Review into Residential Care, 1986-8),
10 Physic Place,
Royal Hospital Road, SW3.
Very interested to note that :It further recommended that to ensure independence and impartiality no agency should undertake the inspection of its own residential establishments. following the number of investigation and re-investigations local authorities such as Islington Council (last count was 14, or 15 self-inquiries) have undertaken in the years since 1991 and the Wagner Report quoted above.
Pindown payments could reach Pounds 2m – Staffordshire childrens homes
In 1991 Barbara Kahan spoke at the National Boarding Week public conference (see Church Times, 4 October 1991)
In April 1992, just two months before the article was published, John Rea Price, former Director of Islington’s Social Services, moved to become the Director of the National Children’s Bureau having recently resigned after 20 years in post. In October 1992, not long after his departure, the Islington Children’s Homes scandal was exposed by the Evening Standard.
11 May 1992: Raid on Peter Righton’s address takes place (see report to the right)
Spotlight On Abuse: The Peter Righton report – In 1993 the William Utting report was ordered into Peter Righton and makes specific mention of Righton being suspected of ‘trade’ in young victims in Malta and Gozo.
Last month the Malta Independent (David Lindsay, 17 August 2014) published an article ‘Evidence of ‘organised abuse’ and ‘trade’ of young boys in Gozo resurfaces’:
“Judges, peers and MPs are among 20 prominent public figures who abused children for decades, a former child protection manager has said.
He told the British press last month that there is evidence linking the former politicians to an alleged paedophile network, and Lord Warner, the former health minister, said the allegations were credible.
The former child protection manager in Hereford and Worcestershire said: “I believe there is a lot of strong evidence, and information that can be converted into evidence if it is investigated properly, that there has been an extremely powerful elite, among the highest levels of the political classes, for as long as I have been alive.
“There has been sufficient reason to investigate it over and over again certainly for the past 30 years, and there has always been a block, and the cover-up and collusion, to prevent that happening.
“We are looking at the Lords, the Commons, the judiciary – all institutions where there will be a small percentage of paedophiles, and a slightly larger percentage of people who have known about it but have felt in terms of their own self-interest and self-preservation and for political party reasons, it has been safer to cover it up rather than deal with it,” he told the BBC.
“I would say we are looking at upwards of 20 and a much larger number of people who have known about it and done nothing about it, who were in a position to do something about it,” he said.
“Righton died without facing a criminal trial for the abuse of dozens of boys, whose abuse he recorded in sickening detail in his diaries, entitled ‘Some Boys’.
”Today, many questions remain over how Righton managed to escape justice during his lifetime. The same questions are being asked about Savile, Sir Cyril Smith and Sir Peter Morrison, which is why survivors and campaigners are seeking an urgent independent inquiry into organised networks of abuse by powerful individuals of the most vulnerable children in our society. “
The extent of Righton’s child abuse allegedly involved rapes, beatings and young boys being moved between paedophiles “like a lump of meat”, according to Mr McKelvie.
Children’s homes provided “supply lines” for child abuse and were targeted by “people in power” during the 1980s, he said. “Sexual abuse of children is a power drive, that’s what a lot of it is about.
“What I am suggesting is that it’s possible that people who were authoritative, powerful, in particular communities did sometimes have access to children’s homes. I had to fire two managers of children’s homes… for abusing children in their care.”
I do hope Maltese journalists keep asking questions….
Obituary: Barbara Kahan