Senior council staff accused Islington children of making up the abuse they suffered in care, Dame Margaret Hodge has claimed in an interview.

The former council leader, who has been Labour MP for Barking and Dagenham since 1994, admitted she had listened to officials but not victims and blamed an attempt to stop a later investigation and undermine one victim on “a s***ty bit of advice”.

Her comments have angered the Islington Survivors Network (ISN), which represents hundreds of former children’s home residents who say they were abused.

The group called on Hodge - council leader from 1982 to 1992 - to name the officials she says dismissed and denied victims’ accounts.

“It was so much more than ‘a s***ty bit of advice’, as Hodge refers to it,” said founder Dr Liz Davies.

Dr Davies, then an Islington social worker, raised concerns about the children’s homes in 1990 but was dismissed.

But in 1992, a major investigation by the Evening Standard suggested the borough’s homes had been infiltrated by paedophiles.

Staff and children claimed drug-dealing, sex trafficking and violence were rife.

The scandal resulted in a 1995 investigation called the White Report, which found the council had not properly investigated many allegations.

In an interview with the Guardian this month, she said she’d had meetings with police and senior council officers after the Standard’s investigation.

“We went through allegation after allegation,” she claimed. “They all said: ‘There’s no truth in any of them’.”

Mrs Hodge said she was told the alleged victims were “naughty kids” who’d been bribed by the Standard – but she now accepted neither claim was true.

At the time, though, “I believed them,” she said. “And what I didn’t do, which I should have done, was talk to the kids.”

Mrs Hodge admitted trying to block a BBC report on the scandal by questioning a victim’s credibility.

She told the Guardian she now felt “terrible” about it.

“I was advised to do that, and that was a s***ty bit of advice,” she said – but refused to say who the advice came from.

Romford Recorder: Former social worker Dr Liz Davies, whose decades of campaigning eventually forced Islington Council to admit and apologise for widespread abuse in its children's homes, criticised Margaret Hodge's commentsFormer social worker Dr Liz Davies, whose decades of campaigning eventually forced Islington Council to admit and apologise for widespread abuse in its children's homes, criticised Margaret Hodge's comments (Image: Charles Thomson)

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Dr Davies said: “Margaret Hodge still refuses to disclose the details of those professionals who she says misled her in the 1990s.

“Margaret Hodge did not give evidence to the White Inquiry in 1995 and, as far as ISN are aware, none of the officers have ever been asked about this very serious allegation…

“If officers deliberately misled her then she should have reported them to the appropriate regulatory professional body.

“This ‘advice’ has contributed to 30 or more years of institutional cover-up and denial of survivors’ experiences and disclosures of serious crimes.”

Dr Davies criticised Mrs Hodge’s suggestion that not speaking to the children was the reason for her disbelief, asking why she had not simply trusted her own whistleblowing social workers.

“She should have listened to her staff, [my colleague] David Cofie and myself and other professionals in all the agencies – health, police, education, probation and psychiatry – all raising the alarm at the time,” she said.

“This is unfinished business. Hundreds of survivors in ISN want to know the truth of this cover-up and the names of those responsible for it.”

Mrs Hodge’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Islington Council did not directly respond to Mrs Hodge’s comments or Dr Davies’ criticisms, but reiterated leader Kaya Comer-Schwartz’s past apology for its “failure to protect vulnerable children in its children’s homes, which was the worst chapter in our council’s history”.

Cllr Comer-Schwartz said the council today was “very different”, with protecting children as a “top priority”.

She said the council offered psychological support, counselling and advice to victims and had launched the Islington Support Payment Scheme in 2022, offering £10,000 to survivors.

The support scheme closes at the end of this month.