Leicestershire County Council Homes

Abuse at the Leicestershire Council Children's Homes

In November 1991, a former Royal Marine named Frank Beck was found guilty on seventeen counts involving sexual and physical assault on children at three Leicestershire Council children's homes where he was superintendent between 1973 and 1986. He was given five life sentences. It was revealed that following an anonymous complaint in 1975 about the treatment of children at Beck's establishment, then located at Ratcliffe Road, Leicester, he had been called before a meeting of the council but managed to persuade them to endorse his approach. Despite a number of complaints subsequently being made, including several to the police, none resulted in any proceedings against Beck or his colleagues until 1989 when the investigation began that was to lead to his conviction.

In 1992, following the Beck trial, two inquiries were launched. The first, led by Andrew Kirkwood QC, examined the circumstances surrounding the events at the council's homes. Its report found that Beck — a charismatic and physically powerful character — had instituted a regime where children were encouraged to regress temporarily to an early stage in their development. This involved a considerable degree of personal physical contact with staff, including hugging and firm holding. Kirkwood's report also noted that the 1970s had seen 'a deliberate move away from the traditional arrangement whereby children's homes were in the hands of a husband and wife team as superintendent and matron, or officer in charge and deputy.' Kirkwood suggested several reasons for this trend. Such joint appointments were increasingly regarded as 'collusive' because if problems occurred, a husband and wife would always back each other up. Furthermore, the appointment of a husband and wife to the two senior posts in a home led to rostering problems since both would want the same time off duty, with the home then being left in the charge of a junior employee. The increase in numbers of difficult adolescents then coming into the homes was viewed as needing a change from the 'Uncle and Auntie' style of leadership to one that was controlling but lively and imaginative.

The second inquiry, chaired by Sir Norman Warner, looked at the recruitment, selection, appointment and supervision of staff in children's homes nationally. His report found that inadequate attention was being given to these matters by senior staff, and that workers were frequently being appointed who lacked adequate qualifications or experience.

Composite list of children's establishments run (at some time in their history) by Leicestershire County Council.

* indicates link to pages on www.workhouses.org.uk.

Records

The involvement of local authorities in the running of children's homes dates from 1930, when they took over the running of the poor relief system previously administered by Boards of Guardians. Surviving records for council-run children's homes may be held in each council's own internal archives. Prior to 1991, however, when a legal requirement was introduced for councils to retain records of children leaving their care, the survival of such records is very variable. Contact details for local authorities in the UK can be found on the website of the Care Leavers Association (CLA). The CLA also provides guidance on accessing childhood care files, which are normally only open to the individuals they relate to.

Locating local authority records has been complicated by the various local government reorganizations that have taken place in recent times, such as the abolition of the London County Council in 1965, and the major nationwide restructuring in 1974 in which many administrative areas were created, amended or eliminated.

Older records may sometimes be placed with the relevant county or borough record office. Many of these repositories have online catalogues of their holdings and also contribute to the National Archives' Discovery database. Note that records containing personal data usually have access closed for a period of fifty years or more.

Older material relating to Leicestershire Council homes may exist at:

Some records relating to council-run homes, for example inspection reports (though not resident lists etc.), are held by The National Archives (TNA). A closure period may apply to these records.

Bibliography