For a great many years, the UK Government has been very clear about the need to protect children, both in the family setting and in the care system itself. “Child protection is everybody’s business” is still a key and often-repeated reminder, repeated by the state, local authorities and the child protection system. Sadly, despite the rhetoric on child protection and repeated investigations and inquiries into child abuse, the abuse continues.
Recently, the public was reassured that the Independent Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales (IICSA), under the chairmanship of Professor Alexis Jay OBE, was to be the trusted milestone in exposing and stopping child abuse. In reality, hundreds of witnesses and survivors, abuse testimonies, together with thousands of pages of evidence, were carefully crafted into a bland whitewash of excuses, platitudes and calls for the need to do better. Many survivors of abuse were never given the opportunity to give evidence and few perpetrators were charged. The key witness in Nottingham whose bravery had lifted the stone on abuses in one children’s home, and which led to a police investigation into yet more homes, was never called to IICSA as a witness. Nor was that witness mentioned in IICSA's Nottinghamshire report. The traumatised survivor was left gagged and deprived of liberty in a ‘secure setting’, having been placed after being brutalised in the prison system. IICSA clearly had no time for ’troublesome’ whistleblowers on child abuse.
Meanwhile, in inner London, Lambeth—which has bad form for the toleration of child abuse—was one of several other local authorities that merited special comments by the IICSA team. The executive summary on abuse in care in Lambeth stated that it was hard to understand the cruelty to which children had been subjected in the borough. Senior people should have been held accountable. Over 700 survivors made complaints; only one person in forty years was disciplined. The carefully-crafted words suggested recognition of the cruelty and abuses and balanced them with the need for apologies. Overall, Alexis Jay’s response was big on words and very small on real action for reform, improved safety for vulnerable children and their parents, or effective prosecutions by the police to bring perpetrators to justice.
In this interview, which concerns Lambeth Council, another very courageous individual blows the whistle on the subject of child abuse and what happened to her when she encountered telling indicators of child abuse that was happening in a statutory care system. Significantly, she is not an abuse survivor. She is an experienced and well-qualified child care professional.
Emma Arran’s testimony is so telling and important because it demonstrates yet again that despite the claims of reform by the child care system, British local authorities and the police forces that they have learned from their ‘mistakes’ in the past and children are now safe, the opposite is in fact true. Children are being systematically abused in a variety of settings and the perpetrators are being protected by the very people and agencies that claim to protect the children.
As her story starts to unfold, some viewers and listeners will struggle to grasp that what she says is true. Their belief in child protection in the United Kingdom, in the honesty and professionalism of the police (especially London's Metropolitan Police) and “the system” may be so strong that disbelief will creep into their mind. They will probably start to think, “This just can’t be true. They wouldn’t do that.” In contrast, those who have suffered child abuse or been harmed by the system—or have had other cause to experience the true nature of the state and its agents—will see an all too familiar pattern emerging. At the end of this interview, few viewers and listeners will fail to understand that the familiar pattern is an obvious orchestrated cover-up to protect active child abusers from investigation and the law.
In a calm, professional and precise manner, Emma Arran gives her personal testimony of a cruel, frightening and outrageous experience in Lambeth. Having encountered the indicators of child abuse and reacted as any trained social worker should, to take immediate action to protect the child, she could not have imagined that she would become the accused and the target of harassment and abuse.
She describes the orchestrated refusal of the Metropolitan Police to investigate the abuse itself or even to adhere to procedures for interviewing vulnerable young child abuse victims. She watched with her own disbelief as the police closed the case despite having told her they were investigating it, as evidence from the child in question grew stronger.
As the police turned a deliberate blind eye, Emma Arran started to experience harassment and abuse from the key suspect in the case. Unpleasant events soon escalated from intimidating looks and actions in meetings, through damage to her bicycle, to more open threats and evident danger to her life. Her houseboat home was vandalised and took on water. She moved area and the intimidation followed her. Emma Arran reported the crimes to the police, but they stonewalled her and no action was taken to investigate or protect her. She was casually told by the police that it was best to keep looking over her shoulder when she was out and about.
Emma Arran continued to try to protect the child in question by seeking help from Lambeth Children's Social Care themselves. She later discovered that her police records had been falsified to state that she had a history of severe mental illness, of being sectioned, of delusions and of fabrication. This false information seemed to be what catalysed the view that she was not a credible witness. She then found out that the falsified records were shared by the Metropolitan Police with children's services in Christchurch on the south coast of England, where she had escaped for safety: the false information shared informed the decision to commence a child protection investigation there in relation to her. Significantly, the Metropolitan Police refused to reopen the original child abuse case even when Emma Arran was able to prove the falsification of records to both the police and social services.
Emma Arran's situation became worse when social services staff turned up on her doorstep to enquire about the safety and wellbeing of her own child. It was immediately clear to her that she and her family were being targeted for speaking out and that targeting was to continue for months.
She was eventually able to get productive legal support, but the trauma and injustice remain. Social services told her that even if there was evidence of falsified records, this did not matter, as the disclosure was too extreme to be believed. Emma Arran restates that she provided clarity in her evidence to the police but that they failed to engage with the child. The assessment social worker stated at the outset of the case that "it has already been decided that you are to blame". Although Emma Arran shared robust evidence and relevant social work insights, the assessment social worker dismissed this, and reiterated that she thought the disclosure was delusional.
Emma Arran closes the interview by calmly stating that the whole British child protection landscape needs to improve. She highlights that while there are so many reports about changing processes, nothing really changes. She volunteers that she was encouraged and motivated to speak out when she saw Brian Gerrish’s UK Column interview with social services whistleblower Carol Woods (2016).
For Emma Arran, it is now brutally clear that in the United Kingdom, child protection is a claim, not a reality. Lambeth Council, the Metropolitan Police and the Church of England were all seemingly part of the cover-up of abuse that she experienced. She is left with profound unanswered questions around the child abuse case which she encountered, and she recognises that she is not alone in raising the issues. Emma Arran is a woman of immense fortitude who deserves our support and respect for blowing the whistle and for not backing down to orchestrated intimidation.