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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child Migration Programmes Investigation Report

The Home Office memorandum, June 1947

18. In this memorandum,[1] initially sent to the Fairbridge Society in London, the Home Office gave guidance with respect to child migration, post-Curtis. The memorandum effectively suggested a presumption against migration, as Curtis had done, and stressed that the needs of the individual children should be paramount and that migration should only really be considered if there were no prospect of the child having a normal home life in the UK. 

19. However, if children were to be migrated it expected “the standard of care which these children may hope to enjoy in this country as the provisions of the Education Act 1944 and the recommendations of the Curtis Committee take effect” (our emphasis) and continued that “it would be difficult to justify proposals to emigrate deprived children unless the societies or homes to which they go are willing and able to provide care and opportunity on the same level”.[2]

20. The memorandum stated that the “parent” society “must retain a continuing responsibility for children whom it has sent overseas as the responsible agent, and the children’s link with this country until they are independent” and must evidence that continuing responsibility. It considered it appropriate for the institutions to appoint a “liaison officer” with a thorough knowledge and understanding of the needs of deprived children to pay regular visits to the institutions.[3]

21. It also indicated that:

a. the sending institutions should be “responsible for general policy in regard to the training and care of children at homes which they administer” and “have final responsibility for the appointment of the principal, with close consultation with the local committee";[4]

b. “local people who are competent to advise the principal in the care and education and training of the children” should be involved in the administration of the schools;[5] and

c. the staff employed at the homes or farm schools should be “of good calibre”.[6]

22. These requirements were rooted in a combination of the early experiences of the child migration programmes and the Curtis principles. The manner in which an organisation in one country was going to ensure appropriate care for its children in another country was always going to require careful thought, and in our view this memorandum sets out what was considered at the time to be a reasonable way of conducting that exercise.

23. The evidence shows that this difficulty continued to be an inherent weakness in the system, illustrated, for example, by the tensions between the Fairbridge Society in London and Fairbridge in Australia, which we discuss further in Part C.

24. It is likely that this memorandum was circulated to other sending organisations in the UK, because 20 copies were sent to the Australian Commonwealth’s migration officer to pass on to the Australian receiving institutions, and we have seen evidence that the Australian Secretary of the Child Welfare Department received it.[7] We also note Mr Davies’ evidence that the Home Office’s expectations in this regard were communicated “to the voluntary organisations” (i.e. not simply Fairbridge) via this memorandum.[8]

25. However, we consider that whether this particular memorandum was seen by other sending organisations in the UK is not determinative given that it repeated many of the Curtis recommendations that had no doubt been seen by them and that much of its content was repeated later: for example, letters from the UK High Commissioner later in 1947 stressed the continuing responsibility of the “parent” society and various Home Office documents stressed that emigration was only appropriate when there was no hope of a normal home life for the child in the UK.[9]

References

Footnotes

  1. CMT000377_001-004.
  2. Constantine 12 July 2017 73-74 and 21 July 2017 140-141; CMT000377_002.
  3. Constantine 12 July 2017 73-74 and 21 July 2017 140-141; CMT000377_002.
  4. Constantine 12 July 2017 73-74 and 21 July 2017 140-141; CMT000377_003.
  5. Constantine 12 July 2017 73-74 and 21 July 2017 140-141; CMT000377_003.
  6. Constantine 12 July 2017 77-78; CMT000377_003.
  7. Lynch 21 July 2017 140-141; INQ000034_008.
  8. DOH000097_018, para. 38.
  9. CMT0000206; DOH000077_003-004.
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