The Leicestershire Inquiry 1992:by Andrew Kirkwood

Thursday, December 1st, 2011 Digest by Robert Shaw, davidlane

Andrew Kirkwood (1993) The Leicestershire Inquiry 1992: The Report of an Inquiry into Aspects of the Management of children’s homes in Leicestershire between 1973 and 1986 Leicester: Leicestershire County Council 0 850223 37 7

he conviction of Frank Beck on 29 November 1991 resulted in the establishment of two inquiries, one into the way in which the police had dealt with the allegations against Frank Beck and this one into all aspects of the management of children’s homes in Leicestershire County Council between 1973 and 1986. It was thus not concerned with the facts of the allegations but with the ways in which the social services department had come to employ the various people, including Frank Beck, against whom allegations had been made and how it had responded to those allegations. The trial also prompted the government to set up the Warner committee (Committee of Inquiry, 1992).

At the time, the case was also the subject of a fierce debate with some people, including Lord Longford, supporting Frank Beck’s protestations of innocence and others arguing that he was even more of a monster than the facts presented at his trial had suggested. Frank Beck’s death in prison on 31 May 1994, apparently of a heart attack, made it difficult to pursue these lines of enquiry though D’Arcy and Gosling (1998) have tried to do this.

Key points

Requirements for monthly visits and six-monthly full reports on children’s homes had not been satisfied and there was no formal supervision of Officers in Charge.

The appointment of Brian Rice as Director of Social Services in 1980 left the department without a senior manager with child care experience.

Apart from a period between 1978 and 1982, all corporal punishment was banned in children’s homes; in spite of this The Beeches daily log recorded over 500 incidents of children being hit by staff between 1979 and 1986.

Suspension pending investigation was never used in disciplinary proceedings.

Frank Beck implemented ‘regression therapy’ for which he had no relevant experience and for which he received no supervision; he continued to use it when he moved to The Beeches in spite of being told that it was inappropriate for The Beeches.o this.

Key points

Requirements for monthly visits and six-monthly full reports on children’s homes had not been satisfied and there was no formal supervision of Officers in Charge.

The appointment of Brian Rice as Director of Social Services in 1980 left the department without a senior manager with child care experience.

Apart from a period between 1978 and 1982, all corporal punishment was banned in children’s homes; in spite of this The Beeches daily log recorded over 500 incidents of children being hit by staff between 1979 and 1986.

Suspension pending investigation was never used in disciplinary proceedings.

Frank Beck implemented ‘regression therapy’ for which he had no relevant experience and for which he received no supervision; he continued to use it when he moved to The Beeches in spite of being told that it was inappropriate for The Beeches.

  •  Nearly all staff in the homes of which Frank Beck was Officer in Charge were young, single people introduced by Frank Beck.
  •  Early warnings of problems were ignored even when they came from reliable sources.
  •  An investigation undertaken in 1978 was ignored by senior managers.
  •  Much of what Frank Beck did did not go through the normal channels.
  •  There was a series of complaints against Frank Beck, one of which resulted in a court case in 1982; only one of these prompted an investigation and no connections were made across the stream of complaints; he was even approved as a foster parent while awaiting trial.
  •  Following the conviction for sexual offences of the Officer in Charge of another home, the recently appointed Deputy of The Beeches took two complaints by staff members to the Personnel Department whose suspension of Frank Beck prompted his resignation.
  •  The Director, Brian Rice, subsequently supplied two references to Frank Beck without mentioning his suspension or resignation.
  •  Allegations against other members of staff in the department were generally handled without a proper investigation.
  •  Mr Rice resigned following an inquiry which revealed lack of confidence in him; his successor took appropriate and positive action to address the issues.
  •  The people primarily responsible for the situation persisting were Dorothy Edwards, Director at the time of Frank Beck’s appointment, who had built him up and Brian Rice, who had failed to act decisively in the face of overwhelming evidence of problems.

Content

In Chapter 1 Introduction, he describes how in 1973 Frank Beck received a CQSW from Stevenage College and was appointed Officer in Charge of The Poplars, Market Harborough; in 1975 he was appointed Officer in Charge of Ratcliffe Road, Leicester and, after acting as temporary Officer in Charge of Rosehill, Market Harborough in early 1978, became Officer in Charge of The Beeches, Leicester Forest East, a post from which he resigned in 1986.

In 1989 allegations from Mrs Outhwaite to a social worker led to her making a police statement in March, after which statements were taken from 383 witnesses, not all alleging abuse. In May 1990 Frank Beck, Peter Jaynes, George Lincoln and Colin Fiddaman, who died before his trial, were arrested. On 29 November 1991 Frank Beck was found guilty on seventeen counts, Peter Jaynes on four and George Lincoln on one.

The Secretary of State set up the committee which produced what came to be known as the Warner Report (Committee of Inquiry, 1992) and Leicestershire County Council appointed Andrew Kirkwood to undertake an inquiry which went beyond the Frank Beck case while the Police Complaints Authority undertook an inquiry into the police handling of complaints. He notes that the period covered was prior to Working together (Department of Health and Social Security, 1986) and his inquiry’s purpose was not to evaluate the validity of earlier complaints but to establish what management did about them. Almost all the witnesses had attended voluntarily and, while the inquiry had been undertaken in private, the report had always been intended to be public; so, where it was not already public knowledge, children and adults who had been victims were given anonymity in the report.

Part 1 of the report covers the background.

In Chapter 2 Background 1973–1980: Miss Edwards’ directorship, he covers the general legislative background, the County Council, the office of the Chief Executive and the key personnel and their responsibilities in the Social Services Department. He notes that the senior managers’ responsibilities were unbalanced and nothing was done to address that imbalance, that the requirements for monthly visits and six-monthly full reports on children’s homes had not been satisfied and that there was no formal supervision of Officers in Charge, though concern about child care standards had led to a review in 1980–81 of child care provision.

In Chapter 3 Background 1980–86 Mr Rice’s directorship, he notes that Brian Rice’s mental health background had left the department with no-one with expertise in child care in senior management. Though the child care review proposals coincided with the Labour Group’s aspirations, they were suspicious of Brian Rice and both Dorothy Edwards and Brian Rice had discouraged members from visiting children’s homes; those visits that did take place were not concerned with child care matters.

Among the proposals from the child care review was the possibility of more secure provision but Labour members, advised by Frank Beck, passed a motion declining to open any secure accommodation, a move which may have strengthened Frank Beck’s position. Though a three-year strategy was adopted on 29 November 1982, a Social Services Inspectorate inspection in 1984/85 spoke of a “lack of clear strategy for residential care” and a lack of “consistency or coherence” (p. 28). By 1986 there was such low morale among staff that the Child Care Resources Team set about developing written procedures, regular meetings of homes managers, regular meetings of Officers in Charge, formal supervision, monitoring, individual care plans and improvements to the physical conditions in the homes.

In Chapter 4 Methods of control in children’s homes. Policy and practice, he summarises the existing regulations and notes the Director’s recommendation in 1973 that there should be no corporal punishment other than in Woodlands Assessment Centre and Polebrook CHE. This was revised in 1978 to allow a single smack and modified in 1982 following the withdrawal of caning from schools and the policy of no corporal punishment was re-affirmed by the Social Services Committee following Frank Beck’s acquittal on a charge of assault. In spite of this The Beeches daily log recorded over 500 incidents of children being hit by staff between 1979 and 1986.

In Chapter 5 Training: residential child care, he summarises the situation and notes the overwhelming need for residential care training.

In Chapter 6 Financial matters, he notes that the Social Services Department was generally well-funded but reductions in Homes Supervisors to save money in 1979–80 were never debated nor reinstated when the budget might have allowed it.

In Chapter 7 Grievance and disciplinary procedures and practice, he summarises the existing procedures, noting that suspension pending investigation was never used and cases were generally referred to the local police in contravention of the proper procedure, while internal investigations were suspended during a police investigation because of police concern at the possibility of contamination of evidence. There was no County complaints procedure until 1987.

Part 2 covers events at The Poplars, Ratcliffe Road and Rosehill from 1973–1978.

In Chapter 8 The Poplars, Market Harborough and the appointment of Mr Beck, he describes how Frank Beck succeeded John Moseling as Officer in Charge of The Poplars. He had introduced a more therapeutic approach and, when he resigned, Frank Beck, the only applicant, was appointed Officer in Charge in September 1973. Peter Jaynes, the Deputy, remained, but all the other staff changed, the new staff all having been introduced by Frank Beck, who also implemented ‘regression therapy,’ of which he had no relevant experience and for which he received no supervision.

In Chapter 9 Treatment: ‘regression therapy’, he notes that regression therapy is not recognised as a distinct therapy and summarises a paper on the subject from Peter Wilson, Director of Young Minds. Frank Beck had derived his understanding from reading and from the film Warrendale and tried to implement it with unqualified staff.

In Chapter 10 The move to Ratcliffe Road, Leicester, he describes how the home was moved in March 1975 to Ratcliffe Road and, though additional staff were recruited, only one, a qualified teacher, had any professional qualifications among all the staff appointed. It was unlikely that all the children who passed through the home between 1975 and 1978 would have needed therapy and the fieldworkers who gave evidence were unable to say what was done in the home other than that it was ‘regression therapy’ and that it was successful. A child who complained was not believed either by the social worker or by the police and children became afraid to say that they had been hit for fear of worse.

In Chapter 11 The role of the visiting psychiatrists, he outlines how between 1973 and 1976 a consultant psychiatrist sat in on staff meetings at Frank Beck’s instigation but did not have any involvement with individual children. His successor said that he had no authority or decision role and he did not have access to senior staff in the department.

In Chapter 12 Early warnings, he recounts how in the spring of 1975, Councillor Dunphy raised an anonymous complaint about mistreatment at Ratcliffe Road and was told that it was part of the therapy. He then met Frank Beck and discussed with a child psychologist at Leicester Family Service Unit what he had told him; after he had spoken to the shadow Chairman of the Social Services Committee and the Director, Frank Beck appeared before the Committee and effectively had his methods approved by the Committee.

The head of another home who complained about Frank Beck’s treatment of a child was told that senior staff would not do anything because “here is someone who will take [hard-to-place kids] without asking too many questions, I dare not upset him” (p. 75).

On 14 November 1975 one of Frank Beck’s referees from Stevenage College visited the Social Services Department to raise the concerns of two mature students about Frank Beck’s methods but no action ensued.

In autumn 1976 a senior member of staff present during police interviews of children who had made allegations of sexual abuse noted in her report that the staff member who had opened the door to her and the children all used an identical phrase to deny the allegations.

In Chapter 13 BC’s complaint of sexual interference 1977, he describes how a child in voluntary care complained to his mother about sexual interference by Frank Beck and Peter Jaynes; he was interviewed by the police but, when the police attempted to interview other children, Frank Beck and Peter Jaynes would not allow this without a member of staff present. In the light of statements from a social worker and a senior manager in support of the home, the Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to prosecute.

In Chapter 14 Rules and prospectus Ratcliffe Road 1977, he describes the creation of some rules for regression therapy and a prospectus for the home.

In Chapter 15 Simon O’Donnell 1977, he recounts the circumstances surrounding the death of Simon O’Donnell who absconded and was found hanged in some gents toilets on 10 October 1977.

In Chapter 16 Mr Beck’s departure from Ratcliffe Road 1978, he summarises how Frank Beck took temporary charge of Rosehill and in July 1978 was appointed to The Beeches.

In Chapter 17 Rosehill, Market Harborough 1977–78, he describes how in 1977 George Lincoln was appointed Deputy in anticipation of the departure of the married couple who had run the home previously. He made major changes before the new Officer in Charge arrived in October and, though staff complained about conflicts between the Deputy and the Officer in Charge, senior staff did not support them and the new Officer in Charge left in February 1978. A letter of concern about George Lincoln from an Area Director and a complaint from a junior member of staff were ignored by senior managers.

In Chapter 18 Mr Beck at Rosehill and the Rosehill investigation 1978, he describes how Frank Beck was appointed to offer 18½ hours to Rosehill following the departure of the Officer in Charge and sexually assaulted George Lincoln on his first evening.

Frank Beck introduced a voluntary assistant to the home whose treatment of the children prompted complaints to prospective foster parents and the school. These were not progressed following a response from Frank Beck but there were further complaints from school via social workers which, though dismissed by the Director, subsequently led to an investigation by Chris Beddoe at the end of which he concluded that children had been hit and that the ‘treatment’ had been instigated by the voluntary assistant who had breached confidentiality and continued to have contact with the children after she had left. No action ensued and Andrew Kirkwood concludes

“The Rosehill investigation of 1978 was the most thorough and most fully documented investigation carried out by Care Branch managers. Its thoroughness owes much to the determination and investigative ability of Mr Beddoe.” (p. 112)

Part 3 covers events at The Beeches from 1976 to 1986.

In Chapter 19 The Beeches, Leicester Forest East 1976–1978, he recounts how the home had been run by a married couple until 1976; in August 1975 a Deputy was appointed and in 1976 a new Officer in Charge took over. In August 1976 a Third in Charge was appointed without the involvement of the Officer in Charge. In the spring of 1977 she complained about what was going on and various problems were identified by different parties over the summer including continuing allegations of violence to children by the Officer in Charge and complaints about the attitude of Deputy. The Third in Charge left and on 16 October 1977 a teacher at The Beeches complained to the NSPCC but the senior management response did not involve interviewing the children or the teacher.

After further evidence in December 1977 of the Officer in Charge hitting children and a threat of industrial action at The Beeches in February, there was a meeting with the Officer in Charge in March; meanwhile the Deputy, who had hit some girls during an altercation gave notice but, after a complaint by staff, the Officer in Charge resigned and the Deputy withdrew his resignation, staying on until October 1978 while the Officer in Charge of another home was given oversight until the appointment of a new Officer in Charge.

Andrew Kirkwood notes that the Deputy’s wife was a part-time teacher at Ratcliffe Road and that Frank Beck had intervened to prevent action being taken against him.

In Chapter 20 The appointment of Mr Beck and The ‘New’ Beeches 1978–1986, he recounts how Frank Beck applied for the Officer in Charge post at The Beeches while the investigation into Rosehill was still ongoing. The Director chaired the interviews and told Frank Beck that regression therapy was not appropriate for The Beeches. His appointment raised concerns among social workers because he had excluded them from Ratcliffe Road. There was a discussion about supervision for Frank Beck but it was left to him to ask for it which he never did.

Of the staff he inherited, the Deputy resigned, one stayed long-term, one became part-time and the remainder left within fourteen months; from 1978–1986 nearly 50 people were employed, mostly young, single and with no experience of residential child care.

In 1979–1980 Chris Beddoe attempted to evaluate his work but was stymied by Frank Beck’s inability to produce records of work. “Much of what Mr Beck did didn’t go through the normal conventional arrangements” (p. 132). Chris Beddoe left the department in 1980.

Instead Frank Beck provided a report which showed that The Beeches was deviating from its original purpose but this was allowed to drift; it was difficult to know which children were at The Beeches at any one time and regression therapy continued, with hitting, changing into pyjamas and staying in their room mentioned frequently in the log book.

Though there was psychiatric support, this consisted of support to the staff meeting rather than seeing children.

The 1985 SSI inspection listed the issues as:

  •  lack of effective control,
  •  lack of agreed selection criteria,
  •  no independent monitoring,
  •  treatment should be part of a care plan,
  •  treatment should be conducted under skilled supervision,
  •  a need for management accountability and control of Frank Beck.

In Chapters 21–23 he covers complaints from a teacher, a member of staff and a foster mother. The teacher complained about a Christmas Party at The Beeches, the staff member about an injury to a child and the foster mother about the regression therapy which Frank Beck was providing for a foster child. In each case there was documentary evidence to support the allegations but senior staff did not bother to read the log books; they simply supported Frank Beck.

In Chapter 24 FL and the trial of Mr Beck 1982–1983, he covers the complaint from a boy’s mother that, on 15 May 1982, Frank Beck had smacked a boy several times. The police charged him and senior managers decided not to suspend him; he was found not guilty on the grounds that the boy was in voluntary care and therefore that the care and control regulations did not apply and that the smacking was proportionate. Frank Beck should have been suspended and there should have been a County investigation because the acquittal was on a technicality; there was long-standing evidence of hitting children in the log books.

In Chapters 25–30 he covers complaints by a student, a staff member and various children.

- A student on a placement at The Beeches in 1982 had raised concerns about the treatment of a child with the child’s social worker; this was followed by a letter of complaint to the Director from the child’s father but there was no investigation.

- A complaint by a child through a solicitor was dealt with by way of an interview with the staff member, not with the boy or after an examination of the log book.

- A complaint by a staff member whose account was confirmed in interview with another member of staff resulted in no action even though Frank Beck was due in court anyway and there was evidence to support the complaint in the authority’s records.

- A complaint by Leicester FSU on behalf of a child on placement from The Beeches was met with an anodyne reply; a further complaint from the Area Director about lack of co-operation from Frank Beck in relation to the child was ignored.

- A complaint to the police by a child who had been at The Beeches for eleven months was ignored by senior management and a complaint from the Emergency Duty Team about the exclusion of four boys from The Beeches and an assault by a member of staff resulted in no action even though there was corroborating evidence in the log book.

In Chapter 31 Working relationships: BD’s case April to November 1984, he covers in detail the events from April 1984 when an arrangement was made for BD to attend The Beeches school on a daily basis to November 1984, when he was admitted to secure accommodation outside Leicestershire, highlighting Frank Beck’s persistent unwillingness to implement agreed plans and his determination to pursue an independent course. Frank Beck he had vigorously opposed the suggestion that children’s homes should not prepare separate reports for court.

In Chapters 32–35 he covers complaints by children and staff.

- When a child told the Duty Officer on 17 January 1985 that he had been physically and sexually abused by Frank Beck while at The Beeches in 1984, the social work manager failed to act.

- When a child subject to an unruly order explained that his behaviour related to Frank Beck’s treatment of him, he was ignored.

- When police investigated allegations of sexual impropriety from a child in foster care, they eventually dropped the case on grounds of insufficient evidence and senior managers took no further action.

- When another student on placement raised issues about Frank Beck’s methods, the only thing senior managers did was to ask Frank Beck to respond.

Part 4 covers fostering.

In Chapter 36 The approval of Mr Beck as a foster parent, he describes how early in 1982 Frank Beck applied to foster two boys whom he had already been taking to his own home; he got approval from fieldworkers on an individual basis at the same time as the police enquiry and before the court case was concluded, in spite of a complaint from the father of one of the boys and an ongoing complaint from a member of his staff. Various lodging arrangements continued to be approved by areas on an individual basis and on 12 March 1984 he was approved as a general foster parent.

Part 5 covers Mr Beck’s resignation

In Chapter 37 The departure of Mr Beck, he recounts how Clifford Savage was appointed Deputy in March 1985 and, becoming aware of Frank Beck’s attitude to County Hall, decided to keep his head down. Another member of staff, a trained SEN, had joined the staff in February 1985 and, when he spoke of making a complaint against Frank Beck, Clifford Savage advised him that it must be watertight. Later that year, an ex-prisoner who had done community service at The Beeches joined the staff and was the victim of a homosexual advance from Frank Beck about which he confided to the SEN.

On 28 February 1986 Mr Scott, the Officer in Charge of another home, was sentenced to eight years in prison for sexual offences and on 3 March 1986 the two men took their complaints to Clifford Savage who, having ascertained that it was pointless to take them to senior management, took them to Mr Nelson in personnel saying that he had oral complaints from other staff.

Mr Nelson was given authority to suspend Frank Beck and on 4 March 1986 he interviewed the members of staff and then Frank Beck, whom he suspended, at which point Frank Beck raised the possibility of resignation.

The following day Mr Nelson and a member of senior management saw the staff and on 6 March 1986 Frank Beck’s resignation was received. Though there was a discussion about whether it should be accepted, it was, and though the police decided that the documents held by Mr Nelson did not support a criminal charge, Frank Beck did not withdraw his resignation.

In Chapter 38 The consultancy list, he outlines the history of the consultancy list of those deemed unsuitable for employment in child care, whose scope changed on 17 July 1986 to allow people in Frank Beck’s situation, that is, people who had not been convicted of an offence, to be added. He notes that no application was made in relation to Frank Beck.

In Chapter 39 References, he notes that two references were supplied by the Director, neither mentioning his suspension and resignation.

Part 6 covers other cases

In Chapter 40 TV’s complaint 1979, he covers the complaint about regression therapy from a child admitted to Ratcliffe Road in November 1978 after Frank Beck had left, noting that this complaint should have raised alarm bells in relation to the earlier investigation into Ratcliffe Road.

In Chapter 41 Mr Davies 1980, he covers the case of Mr Davies who had been employed at a children’s home, had confessed to sexual offences and served a 12-month sentence, after which he had obtained a temporary job in an old people’s home which had been converted into a full-time job until April 1992 when, in the light of Frank Beck’s trial, he had been redeployed elsewhere. He points out that, regardless of whether the actual decisions were appropriate, they had been unsupported by any investigations.

In Chapter 42 Mr Bloxham 1981, he recounts how a staff member had reported concerns about girls seen to be emerging from the room of Mr Bloxham, the Deputy, in distress. These concerns had initially been addressed by trying to manage the rota to avoid the Deputy being on his own but, after the Officer in Charge became aware of possible abuse and the police had taken a statement from one of the girls, Mr Bloxham had admitted sexual offences against five girls, resigned and taken his own life before the court appearance. Andrew Kirkwood comments that there had been no support for the staff in the home or for the abused girls.

In Chapter 43 Mr Pay 1982, he recounts how in 1979 Mr Pay had been appointed Officer in Charge of a children’s home but there had been a series of complaints about excessive drinking, bad language and favouritism of some of the children, which culminated on 2 June 1982 in an interview at County Hall after which he had been suspended and then resigned on obtaining another job.

In Chapter 44 Mr Gasson 1983, he recounts how a young person complained to the police about an assault by Mr Gasson; however, he was not suspended and it emerged when the case was sent to Crown Court that he had previous convictions. The case was dismissed after the young person considered withdrawing part of the statement but the question remained whether the young person’s retraction had been influenced by the fact that Mr Gasson was still working at the home.

In Chapter 45 Mr Scott 1985–1986, he recounts how Mr Scott was appointed Officer in Charge at Rosehill in 1978 and on 29 July 1985 was arrested on a charge of indecency with a teenage boy. In fact, the boy had broken into Mr Scott’s house and stolen a video recorder which was found by police to contain a video of sexual activity between Mr Scott and various boys; a search of his home revealed a suitcase of pornographic books. In February 1986 he was sentenced to eight years in prison on five charges.

Rosehill had been closed on 31 July 1985 with the future of the staff and children handled in a very professional way. However, the Social Services Inspectorate was unhappy with the informal nature of the investigation into the case and asked for a formal investigation to be undertaken; this was never done.

In Chapter 46 Mr Dixon 1986, he recounts how the Officer in Charge had received a report of Mr Dixon masturbating during a film; however, he had only been given a final warning and allowed to remain in post. When the Officer in Charge complained further about the impact of this on those affected, Mr Dixon was moved to another home but, Andrew Kirkwood argues, senior management should have foreseen these difficulties.

Part 7 covers miscellaneous topics

In Chapter 47 The retirement of Mr Rice, he recounts how, in 1986, Councillor James Roberts became Labour Group spokesman and expressed concern about the Director Brian Rice’s performance. Following an investigation by the Chief Executive among senior managers which demonstrated a general lack of confidence, Brian Rice agreed to take early retirement and Brian Waller was appointed to succeed him.

In Chapter 48 Speculation and fact, he deals with some of the speculation at the time, concluding that the Freemasons had had no influence on events, that Frank Beck’s position as a Liberal Councillor had not influenced management, that there was no evidence for a paedophile ring, that there were reasonable explanations for the deaths of various children and that there was no evidence of systematic disposal of records, rather the lack of a policy regarding retention.

Part 8 considers events after 1987.

In Chapter 49 Appointment of Brian Waller as Director of Social Services and subsequent management action, he describes Brian Waller’s 1989 changes to the management team and his 1991 departmental restructuring in the light of the late 1980s legislation and comments that he took positive action following the arrests in 1990 and in subsequent initiatives.

In Part 9: Conclusions, he argues that there was a failure to seek to understand what Frank Beck was trying to do; there were no policies about good child care practice, a lack of structured supervision and ineffectual monitoring. The failures in handling complaints ran through the whole process. Though the senior managers lacked child care experience, the main responsibility lay with the two Directors: Dorothy Edwards for building Frank Beck up and Brian Rice for his management failures. Though strictly speaking ultimate responsibility lay with elected members, there was no evidence that elected members had been responsible for the significant decisions relating to Frank Beck.

The report concludes with a number of appendices.

Discussion

This is a well-written report, which paints a picture of someone whom Dockar-Drysdale (1970) might have diagnosed as an ‘unintegrated child,’ that is, someone who had not developed a clear enough sense of his own identity to be able to see clear boundaries between himself and others. Frank Beck frequently invaded other people’s physical and organisational space while reacting angrily to any attempt by anyone else to invade his own space. He appears to have got to the stage which Dockar-Drysdale describes in which the child acquires a ‘caretaker’ personality, as he was able to charm quite a lot of people, though this does not seem to have been as fully formed as those of some other ‘unintegrated’ children whom I have encountered.

I recall a very experienced child care worker who had spent an evening with an ‘unintegrated’ child saying how draining it was and one suspects that that was the feeling Chris Beddoe had after two years of trying to tie down Frank Beck and completely failing. The lack of connection between what he said and how be behaved is another similarity with ‘unintegrated’ children which makes dealing with them so difficult. In the end, the only thing they respond to is a structured environment in which their behaviour is managed in ways which enable them to develop a sense of themselves as different from other people and other people as people worth respecting. The management of Leicestershire Social Services Department was incapable of diagnosing the situation, let alone creating a framework within which Frank Beck could be managed effectively.

This report echoes the Hughes Report (Committee of Inquiry into Children’s Homes and Hostels, 1986) in four respects that:

ñ there were failures in management throughout the period when the abuse took place;

ñ there were failures of communication throughout the period when the abuse took place;

ñ children’s complaints were not taken seriously;

ñ there was no adequate investigation of complaints;

and the Pindown Report (Levy and Kahan, 1991) in two respects – that:

ñ in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, and

ñ managers will turn a blind eye to poor practice if it saves on ‘out-of-county’ placements.

One danger of demonising Frank Beck is that it excuses people from doing what they should have done. Certainly Frank Beck used all the tools of an ‘unintegrated’ child to keep others at bay and he probably benefited from the fact that these techniques are often very wearing on others.

But the facts are that he was not that clever — he mostly used the same tactic, get your punch in first, to defend himself — and it did not take much to stop him. Mr Nelson, who suspended him, only had the benefit of two complaints; a flick through the log book would have given him an armoury of evidence to use against him. Moreover, Frank Beck, who had managed to fend off so many complaints for so many years, simply ‘rolled over’ when someone confronted him with little more than had been said of him over the years.

It is much more sensible to see Frank Beck’s assaults, whether physical or sexual, as a function of his own inadequacy as a person in a job for which he simply did not have the skills or the patience to achieve what was necessary. Perhaps, while under supervision as a student, he or his supervisor had been able to manage his anxieties about the situations in which he found himself which, once he was on his own in employment, he could not acknowledge, let alone seek help for.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that, with one exception, all those who abused children in Leicestershire would have been given a clean bill of health by a Criminal Records Bureau check. As the Hughes Report (Committee of Inquiry into Children’s Homes and Hostels, 1986) pointed out, pre-employment checks are extremely unlikely to identify potential abusers; the only way to do so is to have open communication among all those in the department so that potential abusers are deterred by the fact that their activities will become known very quickly or stopped for the same reason — which could have happened to Frank Beck had anybody bothered to read the log books at The Beeches.

References

Committee of Inquiry (1992) Choosing with care: quality assurance in social services departments London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office The Warner Report

Committee of Inquiry into Children’s Homes and Hostels (1986) Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Children’s Homes and Hostels (Chairman: His Honour Judge William H Hughes) Belfast: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office See also Children Webmag June 2011.

D’Arcy, M and Gosling, P (1998) Abuse of trust: Frank Beck and the Leicestershire children’s homes scandal London: Bowerdean

Department of Health and Social Security (1986) Child abuse — working together: a draft guide to arrangements for interagency co-operation for the protection of children London: Department of Health and Social Security

Dockar-Drysdale, B E (1970) Meeting children’s emotional needs in residential work Child in Care 10(9), 21–33

Levy, A and Kahan, B J (1991) The Pindown experience and the protection of children Stafford: Staffordshire County Council The Report of the Staffordshire Child Care Inquiry 1990 See also Children Webmag September 2011

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2 Responses to “The Leicestershire Inquiry 1992:by Andrew Kirkwood”

  1. mrs m thomas Says:

    I have just read this by searching the web to see if the childrens homes that my husband and his siblings were put into for a while whilst their was in hospital Leicester Royal Infirmary and then she died in there,my husband was dragged from his bed then aged 12 and told to tell his siblings that their mother was dead and then had to go back to bed,he was not allowed to comfort them at all,that was a sister of 10,a brother of 8 and a brother 0f 6 there was also a baby boy in the hospital aged 6 months he was adopted out (we found him after 40 years!)through norcap,,,,,,the home we are talking about was The Beeches in Leicester it was run by a Mr and Mrs Dunn 1956,,,,my husband is David John Thomas born 1944,,he was abused by Mr and Mrs Dunn sexualy and physical and verbaly!,,the two brothers went to dr Barnardos and were fostered and David was taken to Garth Olwg,childrens home Church Village,Pontypridd,sth Wales were he was abused sexualy and physically,his sister was taken on by an aunt,that was in 1958 in the last home,,,,,I have tried to find out if there are any other people on websites that were there at the same time but to no avail,,

  2. Steve Thompson Says:

    I should be grateful to know the whereabouts of the farm that Beck worked on between leaving school and joining the marines. I believe in 1959 I encountered him when I was a a child. Thanks.

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