Thursday. 23 October 2014

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MBE for head of project helping sex victims, but funding is axed

Ministers slash cash for project for victims of child abuse, while Queen honours founder

Home Office budgets for the area of work that the Lantern Project undertakes, along with several other funding streams, will cease

Jeremy Browne, Home Office minister

Government funding is being stopped for a group that helps victims of child sex abuse even though its founder was awarded an MBE on Saturday.

Graham Wilmer was in the Queen’s birthday honours list announced over the weekend for his work as director of the Lantern Project, a charity in Wallasey in Merseyside that provides counselling and other support services for people who were sexually abused as children.

David Cameron, prime minister, formally recommended Wilmer for the honour “for services to survivors and victims of abuse”.

Wilmer said: “I am delighted to have been given this award, but I accept it on behalf of everyone involved with the Lantern Project.”

But he told Exaro that, in a bitter irony, the Lantern Project will be forced to end its work because of a lack of government funding.

The Lantern Project is one several such organisations facing a funding crisis since the coalition government axed direct funding to groups that provide support for people who were sexually abused as children. Groups have been relying on cash from the lottery.

Wilmer said: “It is really time that David Cameron pulled his act together over funding to counsel people who have been sexually abused as children.”

In March, two men sexually abused as boys in care in Richmond three decades ago spoke to Exaro to condemn the lack of support for witnesses during the Metropolitan Police Service’s ‘Operation Fernbridge’.

Police have asked the Lantern Project to counsel victims who are witnesses in ‘Operation Yewtree’, set up in the wake of the exposure of Jimmy Savile, the late BBC presenter, as a paedophile, as well as ‘Operation Pallial’, which is investigating historical sex abuse at children’s homes in North Wales.

Wilmer also helped the Met start ‘Operation Torva’, which is investigating widespread child sex abuse at schools of a Catholic order in Great Britain. He was sexually abused as a pupil at a Salesian school.

Since Exaro made Torva public with the Sunday People last month, more people have come forward to make fresh allegations of abuse at Salesian schools.

The Lantern Project’s only funding, said Wilmer, was granted by a local health authority to help prisoners who had been sexually abused as children. That money runs out in September, he added.

Jeremy Browne, the Home Office minister responsible for crime prevention, wrote to Wilmer earlier this year to suggest that he applied for funding from the Merseyside police commissioner.

The minister wrote: “From April 2013, Home Office budgets for the area of work that the Lantern Project undertakes, along with several other funding streams, will cease, and a new Home Office Community Safety Fund will be available to police and crime commissioners.”

“I realise that the Lantern Project provides services that cut across health, criminal justice and community safety priorities.” He said that police commissioners can work jointly with other local authorities to provide funding for projects that improve community safety.

“Finally, I would like to put on record my thanks and appreciation for the valuable support that the Lantern Project provides for victims of child abuse and, in particular, for your support to the police in their inquiries into this abhorrent crime.”

The Lantern Project has applied for money from the Merseyside police commissioner. Wilmer is due to meet her soon, but is not hopeful of much funding.

Wilmer told Exaro: “This is all very frustrating. We are being asked by the Met to support people from Operation Torva, and told that Operation Yewtree is likely to continue for the next 18 months. But we will finally run out of money in September.”

“You cannot have the police encouraging people to come forward as victims of child abuse, and then have no system of support for them.”

Exaro has made a series of disclosures about failures by authorities to tackle the sexual abuse of children. For example, Michael Gove, education secretary, is under pressure after a leaked letter showed that he was blocking a move to make it mandatory for schools to report all allegations of child sex abuse.

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