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Wigan poet receives apology over his childhood abuse in the care system

Lemn Sissay
Lemn Sissay

A well-known poet and broadcaster has settled his court case with Wigan Council over abuse he suffered in the care system.

Lemn Sissay, who has become one of the country’s most familiar literary figures, is believed to have been paid a six-figure sum by the local authority.

However, he said that for him the important thing is the council’s full apology and frank acknowledgement of wrongdoing in the past.

The agreement was described as amicable and was reached after an eight-hour marathon round of legal talks last week.

Mr Sissay, was fostered in Atherton and then spent his teenage years in the care system, including time in the notorious Wood End facility in Atherton.

Mr Sissay said: “This has been a long case and it has been hard work trying to keep my head and heart intact.

“I’ve been speaking about what happened to me in my childhood for as long as I’ve been interviewed but the breakthrough leading to this action was Wigan Council chief executive Donna Hall finding my files and sending them to me.

“There was a lot of goodwill in the room and understanding that this needed to be resolved and there was a case to answer.

“What I wanted was acknowledgement from my legal parents of the abuses I had suffered.

“I can now take off some of my armour, breathe a little clearer and live the rest of my life.

“I didn’t want to smash the system, this was about righting a wrong. Wigan Council has now done that and that is really important to me.

“Children in care deserve a right to their memories, whether their experiences have been good or bad. You can’t take that away.”

Mr Sissay says he now expects to receive the unredacted versions of the files prepared on him by council care employees.

James Winterbottom, director for children’s services at Wigan Council, said: “We are happy that the case has been concluded and a mutual resolution found for both parties.

“We have apologised to Lemn and look forward to working with him going forward for the benefit of our children in care and care leavers.”