Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260
WEDNESDAY 11 JUNE 1998
SINGLETON, CBE, CHRISTOPHER
ABRAHAMS and MAJOR
You are talking about a database within your own organisation?
(Canon Fisher) Yes.261 I think what the question
was about was, what about a common database involving all the
agencies? Would that not make sense and why has that not been
addressed? You are obviously meeting, as you said earlier on.
(Canon Fisher) In terms of future development of
this input, we would like to see a one-stop referral centre, not
an agency but a referral centre.262 May I assume then that all
of you would agree that a common database makes sense?
(Mr Haynes) On provision that it was not run by
a voluntary agency.263 So that raises questions that you obviously
do not want it to be in the hands of the Child Migrants' Trust?
(Mr Haynes) I do not think with the experience
we have had from the Fairbridge feedback from former migrants
that they (CMT) have their full confidence.264 Could you expand
(Mr Haynes) There are a number of evidence cases
that could be presented to the Committee if they want it subsequently.
At this stage I would not like to disclose them, but there have
been cases where there has been reluctance to go to them. Indeed,
Margaret Humphreys herself has visited Fairbridge Associations
in Australia with a view to trying to get them to go to the Child
Migrants' Trust, which they have not wanted to do. I think most
important, above all of things, is being seen to be independent
and getting back to this business of recognition. If you have
not got an identity, if you have not got a passport, you want
to go to an agency that you know will give you it.
I am sorry, I do not understand what you mean by that?
(Mr Haynes) There are still some people, child
migrants, who have not got passports in Australia, and, therefore,
a voluntary agency has not got the right to intercede. You have
to be able to deal multi-agencies in the approaches and databases.
I think you need all the sending agencies' support; you need all
the support that Barnardo's can give, which you have heard about;
you need all the agencies' records, but you need a centralised
government clearing-house, if you like, that enables the process
So what you are saying is that if any common database were established,
this should be at the behest of the Government?
(Mr Haynes) I think each agency should retain their
own.267 But over and above that you would accept a common database
is a necessity?
(Mr Haynes) Yes, there needs to be an access to
commonality.268 May I put to you that, just as there are migrants
who do not wish to come back to the placing agenciesfor
reasons that you have all accepted and fully understand and appreciatethere
are others, I am sure, who would not particularly want to go back
to the British Government because they believe they were abandoned
by the British Government. Therefore, it leaves us with a dilemma.
You are saying that on the Child Migrants' Trust, who appear,
from our point of view, to be doing a reasonably good jobcertainly
the evidence that we have had from many of the migrants has been
very positive towards the Child Migrants' Trustthere may
be negative views. It leaves us with a dilemma if we were to suggest
some kind of common database that, whatever the options are, there
are objections from key people?
(Mr Haynes) Mr Hinchliffe, I do not want to get
involved in the Child Migrants' Trust aspect. You asked me for
an opinion and I have given you one. In reply to your question
about not trusting the Government, that is absolutely right. Therefore,
surely the answer is to build a choice machine where somebody
comes in and can have access, either to their parent agency or,
if there is a problem with that, into a centralised government
agency or a combination of both. You need a network that enables
somebody to be referred between agencies effectively, quickly,
to answer their problems. Dr Stoate, you missed my introduction.
I am sorry if I am being protective, or appear to be protective,
but Fairbridge has moved from 1982 into a completely different
field, therefore what we are doing is standing back, if you like,
from this and doing the research into it, which may answer some
of your queries as to why I am desperately trying to look to the
future to make it work.269 I am conscious that this is a very
important area in terms of the future. Could I go back to Canon
Fisher. One of the witnesses we had last week told a very harrowing
story about attempting to find out who he was and where he came
from and he was from a Catholic agency originally. He was, as
I recall and my memory may be wrong, placed as a baby in a Catholic
children's home in London and was subsequently transferred at
the age of two to South Wales, to Swansea, I believe, where he
remained until he was about five. He did not know about this until
he was in his fifties, as I recall. The dilemma he had was that
he could not obtain any information about this process and his
mother had enquired. I am not sure whether his mother was still
alive. She certainly enquired of the children's home. The children's
home said that he had been lost in the evacuation during the Second
World War, yet he had been transferred from that home to Swansea
and Swansea had all the records. Presumably your database should
be able to overcome this kind of problem and I wonder why that
database has not addressed the particular problems of this migrant?
(Canon Fisher) I cannot answer that.270 It is unfair
to give an example and I appreciate that, but as far as you are
concerned, that should not happen. You have a record there that
should establish exactly where that person came from?
(Canon Fisher) I have got the answer. That was
an old enquiry which historically now is answerable now that we
have the database.271 So that problem should be overcome by the
(Canon Fisher) That problem has been overcome.272
Could I pursue this issue, the exchange I had with Mr Haynes,
because this is a very fundamental question in terms of what we
as a Committee may consider doing, and I think you have left us
with a dilemma. If the other agencies agree with the central point
that Mr Haynes has made, that the Child Migrants' Trust would
not be the appropriate agency to handle this database, you suggested,
Mr Haynes, the Government should do this. We know for a fact there
are many migrants who will not touch the Government because of
their views on how they were treated. What do we do? I would be
interested, MrLovell, if you want to come in on what the options
(Mr Lovell) Chairman, the starting-point is that
I do not think there is any disagreement about the fact that at
the moment people are having to trawl round a whole number of
agencies, wasting a lot of time trying to discover where their
particular information is.273 So what do we do?
(Mr Lovell) That is why I think all of us agree
probably that there should be a central database of information.
I think the crunch issue is, what do we all think is going to
go on to that database, because one view is that what ought to
be on that database is simply names and information that would
lead the enquirer to the relevant agency which holds the information.
So I think there needs to be some discussion and clarification
about what we all mean by a database and what its purpose is because
I think the issue about the Child Migrants' Trust is very much
connected with the purpose of that database and what is on it.274
Let us take this a bit further on. I understand fully the point
you are making. If there were a basic record that a former migrant
could access and find out that he had been placed by your organisation
or one of the organisations here, then with assistance, some independent
social work counselling support, pursued the records with the
agency in more detail, with support, for the reasons that all
of you understand, would that work, and if it would work, why
not the Child Migrants' Trust, because we appear to be having
to re-invent the wheel, and I would like some more specific reasons
why not the Child Migrants' Trust?
(Canon Fisher) I have to be very careful, as everyone
has been. We do not share the confidence that your Committee appears
to have in the Child Migrants' Trust.275 Can I say it is not a
matter of our Committee because we have expressed no opinions.
What I am saying is that clearly a lot of migrants have confidence
in the Child Migrants' Trust.
(Mr Haynes) Can we define "a lot of migrants"?276
I think probably that is the wrong term to use, I would accept
that, but certainly a substantial number of migrants have made
representations to us that indicate a great deal of faith in the
Child Migrants' Trust and I think if we are going to move this
forward we need some very frank answers to a straightforward question:
what is wrong with the Child Migrants' Trust, from your point
(Mr Lovell) I think the issue that needs to be
clarified is whether or not the purpose of anyone managing that
database is simply to act as a clearing-house to refer people
on to other agencies, or whether or not the purpose of that database
is going to be far more extensive than just names and is part
of a wider service than a counselling service. What is the purpose
and function of that database?277 On the ones that I suggested,
which was that it would be fairly basic information which would
refer the enquirer to the agencies, where you have the files and,
in Canon Fisher's case, his own database that would establish
where the person came from. If we had that system with some independent
counselling, what is wrong with using the Child Migrants' Trust?
What I want to establish is why you would have objections, or
some of you would have objections, to using an agency that is
currently doing this work, because we need to know what these
objections are if we are to consider what proposals we would make
at the end of the inquiry?
(Mr Haynes) The Child Migrants' Trust has sent
out a paper which they make people sign, in which it says: "I
have not and do not intend to engage any other agency or persons
on my behalf." Basically it is an exclusivity sign-off document.
I thought we had come to some sort of agreement here that, if
we are going to progress, then it is a multi-agency approach and
it is partnership working effectively, not exclusively, for any
reason, be it money or whatever it might be. So there is one concrete
piece of concern in the set-up. I am not saying that we could
not progress on from that point but I suppose attitudes need to
change on all sides.278 So you object to them saying-
(Mr Haynes) Exclusivity.279 "You are coming
with us, you stick with us," basically?
(Mr Haynes) I think actually you ought to ask that
question to Old Fairbridgians when you go to Australia, not to
me, because, as I say, I am removed.
(Mr Singleton) Barnardo's will support any initiative
which maximises the possibility of people who were emigrated by
our organisation having access and being happier basically, feeling
better about what has happened to them. If there were a central
databaseand we have some evidence that people do not know
which agency migrated them because they have come mistakenly to
us, so there certainly seems to be a need for thatwe would
readily co-operate with that. As far as the Child Migrants' Trust
is concerned, I am not up-to-date with their work. We have worked
with them on three cases and I have no reason to suppose those
have not been satisfactorily achieved.