Poet’s ordeal at Woodend

THE alleged draconian and abusive regime at a Wigan borough children’s home, now under investigation by police, has been much reported by a famous former resident.
Lemn SissayLemn Sissay
Lemn Sissay

Acclaimed poet Lemn Sissay spent 10 months in Atherton’s Woodend Assessment Centre as a teenager and reported a tough life akin to a prison - from which he once escaped.

His online blog has elicited contact from fellow former residents who have made claims of both physical and sexual abuse at the council-run home between the 1970s and 90s.

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Writing for the Guardian newspaper two years, Mr Sissay gave a flavour of the conditions in which he lived there for 10 months after 17 years in care.

He wrote: “The staff at Wood End strip-searched me on a fortnightly basis and scoffed at my protestations. I was marched in and out of corridors, watched 24 hours a day, locked in a dormitory by night and threatened that if I were ever to lose it there was a padded cell.

“I would have to press a buzzer for the night watchman to unlock the dormitory and escort me to the toilet alongside his leashed Alsatian dog.”

After several months of good behaviour he was given the “privilege” of working in the gardens of staff who lived within the grounds and used this as an opportunity to flee.

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He added: “I ran and ran and ran through the perimeter fence and housing estate and onwards. An alarm would soon blare from Woodend, the Alsatian would be brought out, the police would be called.”

Mr Sissay handed himself in at a nearby housing office and was sent back to Woodend before being found a home in Atherton several months later.

In his blog from February last year he refers to Wood End being run “with a rod of iron”.

And he refers to a post from another former resident who said: “I got to Woodend and got my first kicking three hours later.

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“Nose broken, three ribs and wrist. They didn’t bother with a doctor. Just banged me up for three weeks. I was 12 years old.”

Anyone with information is asked to ring police on 101 or refer themselves to St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre on 0161 276 6515.

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