Former social services head praises Derry children’s home as ‘warm and loving’
Former social worker admits nuns provided ‘care on the cheap’
Termonbacca children’s home was a ‘warm and loving place’ a former senior social worker in Derry has told the inquiry investigating institutional abuse at care homes run by the Sisters of Nazareth.
He was the second witness, formerly involved in social work in the city, to praise the level of care provided by the nuns at two residential homes in the city.
The witness, who cannot be named, told the inquiry he first visited Termonbacca in 1975 as there were children there under supervision of the social work team he led.
Questioned by the inquiry’s junior counsel Joseph Aiken, the witness said he found the environment there to be warm and caring and the staff, including some of the sisters to be “very caring”.
He said he saw them in a positive way. It was very large home, he continued, and admitted that children might well have found it intimidating because of its size but he found it welcoming. He admitted that some children could become institutionalised in such a large setting.
The witness outlined the social work services structure in the Western health board area including Derry following reconfiguration in the early 1970s.
He said in the early years of the Western board there was difficulty in filling all social work posts after 1973. The new board worked to bring together many social services from the disparate old area boards which were amalgamated to form the new board. There were many gaps in provision of social work services, he said.
By 1980 the witness said most social work posts were filled but he added that case loads for generic social workers were still very large with sometimes 60 or more cases being handled by each member of the social work team.
In response to questions from inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart, the witness ageed that the Western board was “getting care on the cheap” from the Sisters of Nazareth. The inquiry was shown a document outlining the levels of payment made to the sisters in respect of monies received for the care of children. It showed there was an uneven rate of payment across Northern Ireland. The inquiry also heard that the sisters were in a position to achieve economies because they were operating in a voluntary and charitable way.
Yesterday the nun in charge at Termonbacca was described by another former social worker as “very caring”.
She told the inquiry that Termonbacca could be intimidating to young children, but she believed the children were well fed and dressed and given shelter.
However she added: “They were very institutionalised. I would have been concerned for their emotional welfare.”
When asked about one nun, whose name is not being revealed, the former social worker replied: “I thought highly of her, I thought she was very caring.
“She did have a lot of children in her care, but I thought she did try and see them as individuals and I thought she wanted the best for them.”
The woman also told the inquiry that no child ever complained to her about sex abuse at the home.