Payments made to ex-residents abused at Church of England children's home

Payments have been made to ex-residents of a notorious Church of England children's home where girls were drugged and sexually and physically abused over nearly 20 years.

Around 24 former residents who participated in a damning review and report into life at Kendall House in Gravesend, Kent, have received ex-gratia payments.

The dioceses of Rochester and Canterbury said the payments acknowledged the "courage" of women who shared their stories, but one ex-resident described the money as an "insult".

Disclosure of the payments came after an independent review this year revealed a catalogue of sexual abuse, ill-treatment and physical abuse at the home between 1967 and 1986.

Some girls were placed in strait-jackets, and youngsters as young as 11 were routinely, and often without medical assessment, given powerful anti-depressants, sedatives and anti-psychotic drugs.

Those who resisted, challenged or overcame the drugs' effects faced sanctions, including being locked alone in a room for days on end or emotionally abused.

Teresa Cooper, 49, who has fought a long campaign to highlight abuse at Kendall House, said the £1,000 ex-gratia payment she received failed to atone for illnesses she has since suffered.

She was abused and forcibly drugged as a teenager, including with Valium and powerful tranquillisers. She was drugged more than 1,200 times and believes the girls were part of a drug experiment.

Ms Cooper told the Press Association: "They made my life a walking, living, breathing hell. We were pumped full of drugs over and over again by force. It was your worst nightmare and there was nothing you could do to get out of it."

She said she was left suicidal, unemployable, and lives in pain round-the-clock. She is heavily critical of the authorities, including the Church and the police, for their handling of the scandal.

"They have ruined my life," she said. "I could have been anything I wanted to be if I had just walked away but I chose to go for justice."

She said a host of unanswered questions still exist about the regime at Kendall House, and legal work is being prepared on claims that teenagers who were forcibly drugged went on to have children with birth defects.

Ms Cooper said she feels the ex-gratia payments are an "insult", adding: "I think the Church is doing it to pacify the women."

A spokeswoman for the dioceses of Rochester and Canterbury said ex-gratia payments have been made to all former residents who took part in the initial review and the later report, as recommended by the panel.

She said: "These payments are an expression of our gratitude to the women who have had the courage to share their stories, and an acknowledgement of the pain of revisiting their trauma.

"We fully accept all of the panel's recommendations and have already made significant progress in implementing them."

The review said residents were frequently sedated to an extent where they could not walk, speak or have control over their normal daily activities.

None of the perpetrators of the abuse are still alive. The review also noted that the home operated under a "regimented, rigid culture, where docile conformity was demanded".

Opened in the 1920s, Kendall House was a home for vulnerable girls aged 11 to 16 who were mainly placed there by local authorities. It closed in 1986.

Since 2006, pressure mounted on the Church to examine the claims of abuse and mistreatment.

Launched last year by the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev James Langstaff, the review was chaired by Professor Sue Proctor, who led the inquiry into Jimmy Savile's reign of abuse at Leeds Teaching Hospitals.

The Bishop of Dover and Canterbury, the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott, has previously said the Church "failed in our oversight" and that abusive practices were "permitted to prevail at Kendall House for many years".

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