Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Catholic Child Welfare Council

1. BACKGROUND AND HISTORICAL INFORMATIONBritain sent children and young people overseas to lead new lives in the Colonies from early times. The Catholic Church and its agencies, as major carers of children in need in the UK, were involved in two main periods of child migration, to Canada and Australia. The Catholic Child Welfare Council (CCWC), which was founded in 1929, is involved because of its role as an umbrella body for the Catholic children's agencies.Canada: Children and young people were sent to Canada, from about 1870 to 1930. We estimate that more than 10,000 Catholic children and young people went to Canada through a variety of different Catholic organisations, over this period, being about 10 per cent of the total number sent nationally.Australia: Children were sent to Australia, from 1938-1963. During this period Catholic agencies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland co-operated with the British and Australian governments in nominating children for migration to Australia under the Government scheme. We understand that the total number of children sent under this scheme was approximately 3,000 of whom we estimate that at least 1,200 came from Catholic children's homes and agencies. Two thirds of these went to Western Australia; the remaining third were spread thinly over the other States.Rosemary Keenan, of the Catholic Children's Society (Westminster) has written a historical summary of child migration as it relates to the Catholic agencies and a copy is enclosed. Any specific questions relating to contact between the Catholic sending agencies and the governments of the time could probably be answered by further reference to contemporary correspondence in CCWC files.

2. RECORDSFor Australia, CCWC has a central record for many, but not all, of the Catholic child migrants. Records may also be held by individual agencies or religious orders who looked after the children in this country, but by today's standards these records (in common with others of the period) were usually very scanty. Most children were sent either by the diocesan child care agencies or by religious orders, such as the Sisters of Nazareth. A few individual children were sent at the request of their families. Some were recruited by Australian institutions in direct contact with Catholic children's homes in the UK and some of these children became known to CCWC later. The CCWC records relating to child migration to Australia are housed at the Catholic Children's Society (Westminster) and are overseen by Rosemary Keenan who is based there. Rosemary Keenan has been compiling for some years, on behalf of CCWC, a database of all former Catholic child migrants to Australia, containing both historical information and recent contacts. A copy of the most recent analysis of this database is enclosed.For Canada, we are looking further back in time and at much larger numbers. Surviving records are spread because the sending institutions, societies and religious orders were spread and most of these bodies still have their own records. It can be a problem identifying record sources, but we are trying to assist in this by supporting the creation of a national database. Personnel at Catholic Children's Society (Westminster) and the Nugent Care Society (Liverpool) have already entered over 4,000 of the potential 10,000-15,000 names, but as CCWC and the agencies concerned do not have any resources to finance this, it is unlikely to progress much further without external funding.

3. EFFECTS ON THE LIVES OF THE CHILD MIGRANTSIt is now recognised that the experience of being sent to a country at the other side of the world, away from familiar faces and environments, with no knowledge of their birth families and without any possibility of access to them, had a profoundly adverse effect on many of these migrants. Many are still suffering from a lack of identity and even those who objectively did better by going to Australia or Canada still feel a need to find out about their birth origins and to understand them. For many, time is running out for locating a birth mother who may still be alive, but is now very elderly. For others, personal relationships have never been easy because of their childhood experiences, and counselling by someone with specialist knowledge of child migrant issues is needed.In order to find out more about the needs of former child migrants at first hand, and how best to meet those needs. CCWC's Chairman and General Secretary visited Australia in March 1995. We enclose a summary report of that visit, which highlights the need for provision of services in both in the UK and Australia. The visit was fully recorded and more detailed information could be made available on request. Developments since the visit have only underlined the importance of providing specialist services former child migrants.

4. OUR SERVICEThe Catholic diocesan agencies in the UK provide information and assistance for former child migrants, as part of a general aftercare service for people who were in their care as children. However, not only have overall numbers of people seeking information increased, but the subject of child migration has been given a much higher public profile in recent years and the result of this is that more former child migrants and their families are coming forward to seek help or information. We assist them in various ways, as the enclosed literature explains.Enclosed is our Statement of Intent, Information for Catholic child migrants to Australia and Information for counselling agencies in Australia which give more detailed information about our services to former child migrants. The amount of help we can offer is limited by a lack of resources. Individual agencies assist those who were formerly in their care and CCWC's service for those who were cared for in the UK by one of the religious orders, without any connection with a diocesan agency, is only made possible by grants from the Sisters of Nazareth and Christian Brothers. This funding has already been given for six years and it is not realistic to expect it to continue indefinitely. We enclose an account of the CCWC family search service for former Australian child migrants, including numbers of former child migrants assisted since 1992, with outcomes.

5. CO -OPERATION WITH OTHER AGENCIES WHICH ASSIST CHILD MIGRANTS:The UK: It will be seen from the above that CCWC has been pro-active in the field of assisting former child migrants for a number of years. We established a sub-committee to deal with matters relating to child migrants in 1992, the same year as our research service was set up. It is through the efforts of Rosemary Keenan that a Sending Agencies Group has come together and now meets regularly. We liaise with other agencies, including the Child Migrant Trust, on a case-by-case basis as well as to discuss policy and practice.Australia: Particular benefits flowed from the visit to Australia in 1995. We are working in co-operation with the Christian Brothers, Sisters of Mercy and Sisters of Nazareth in Australia, as well as the Catholic Migrant Centre in Perth, the Christian Brothers Ex-Residents Services (CBERS), the Australian Child Migrant Foundation (ACMF), Centacare Australia, the Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission and other organisation. We have assisted these bodies in a variety of ways to improve their own services to former child migrants.Canada: We have developed links with David Lorente, Chair of Heritage Renfrew Home Children Committee in Ontario; representatives from Catholic agencies will be attending the 8th Annual Reunion of Home Children this year.

6. POSSIBLE ACTION BY THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT AND OTHERS:Funding: We cannot express too strongly that the major need is for some funding to be made available to meet the ongoing needs of former child migrants and their families. We believe that we can provide the necessary services for those formerly in Catholic care, but that the Government has a responsibility to assist with funding, which would enable us to provide or improve the following:Family search and reunions: This can be a time-consuming and costly business. The Catholic diocesan agencies have no funding for the work, although they believe they have the obligation to do it, and in fact they give it priority at the expense of other origins enquiries. CCWC's own service is currently funded entirely by two religious orders, but we cannot expect this funding indefinitely, and at present both the numbers of new enquiries and the average costs of cases are rising. Although experience shows that enquiries by the descendants of migrants are likely to continue, the number of actual child migrants still alive is finite and diminishing and the service offered to them needs to be adequately funded for as long as it is needed. We believe that some Department of Health funding should be made available to the sending agencies to support and assist in the cost of this work.Travel and visits: If family are located, a visit to meet them becomes a priority. Airfares, accommodation and other expenses are beyond the means of many former child migrants and although some bodies in Australia, notably CBERS, now make grants for visits, this is still a major need.Counselling and pastoral care: There is a growing awareness of the need for specialist counselling, both as part of the process of family reunion, and at other times. This is provided at present as part of our overall service, but again we are limited by budgets. Because of geographical considerations counselling may need to be carried out by another agency and the cost of this can be a particular problem.Professional training: Staff in our agencies need appropriate training in order to provide a proper professional service to former child migrants and their families. We could also contribute to training of people in other agencies, both in the UK and Australia. Again it is lack of financial resources which limit us.Database: Catholic agencies could provide a much better service for child migrant enquiries from Canada if we had the resources to continue with the Canadian database. Once completed it would be a permanent resource. The estimated cost of this (if shared between the four main Catholic sending agencies) is £12,800, based on 1,000 hours labour costs and four computers and printers.Choices: We believe that the paramount consideration should be the provision of appropriate service to former child migrants in order to meet their needs. In many cases this is suitably done through the sending agency, but for others the Child Migrant Trust or another independent body may be more appropriate and we believe that the migrant should have that choice. Therefore the Department of Health should recognise the need for a variety of agencies to be providing services and also for them to be liaising and working collaboratively. If this is accepted by the Inquiry, with recommendations for appropriate funding, it would provide a basis for a comprehensive professional service to meet the ongoing needs of former child migrants.

April 1998


Document 1:  Catholic Child Welfare Council, General background information (including a list of Catholic diocesan agencies) (Not Printed)

Document 2:  Former Catholic Child Migrants from the UK to Australia—Some Background information

Document 3:  Historical background to child migration

Document 4:  Former child migrants to Australia, Analysis of computerised database, January 1998

Document 5:  Visit to Australia in March 1995

Document 5A:  Visit to Australia in March 1995

Document 6:  Enquiries by former child migrants—Statement of Intent

Document 7:  Information for Catholic child migrants to Australia

Document 8:  Helping former Catholic child migrants to find family in the UK—Information for counselling agencies in Australia (Not Printed)

Document 9:  Family search service for former Australian child migrants

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