Three: The ‘daring experiment’: London County Council and the discharge from care of children to Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s

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In February 1955, the chairman of London County Council’s Children’s Committee was asked if there was any evidence that “increased immigration from the West Indies in recent years” had led to an increase in “coloured children” coming into care? The chairman responded that the number of children taken into care was available on a monthly basis and it “would be undesirable to give any appearance of segregation … by giving details as to colour or nationality” (1 February 1955, London County Council Minutes of Proceedings). However, despite this reply, from the mid-1950s until the mid-1960s, the Council was, in fact, intent on sifting, logging and demarcating Irish children on the basis of their nationality. Related to this process of classification, hundreds of children were removed from Britain and taken to live outside the jurisdiction of the British government, in Ireland.

The aim of this chapter, therefore, is to chart the approach of the England’s largest local authority to Irish children in public care in the middle of the 20th century. More specifically, the central focus will be on the activities of the London County Council Children’s Committee and its efforts to discharge children from care to Ireland. The key period stretches from 1954 until 1965 since, as we shall see, it was during this time that that the council appeared to have been most preoccupied with Irish children in its care. This part of the book will refer to the publicly available minutes of the proceedings of the council. However, it will also make more extensive use of the ‘closed’ minutes of the Children’s Committee (1948-65) and related presented papers.

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Social work and Irish people in Britain
Historical and contemporary responses to Irish children and families