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Health minister John Hutton
"We will be establishing a new children's rights director for England"
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The BBC's Kim Catcheside
"The government will accept all 72 recommendations"
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The BBC's Christine Stewart
"Children in care are not consulted"
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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Changes for children in care
Bryn Esten home
Bryn Esten home, Wales, where much of the abuse ocurred
The government has agreed to sweeping changes to services for children in care.

Ministers have accepted each of the 72 recommendations made in the Waterhouse report into child abuse.

The report, which was published in February, investigated 650 allegations of child abuse in 40 council care homes in North Wales over a 20-year period, between 1976 and 1996.

It followed an 18-month inquiry, which was headed by Sir Ronald Waterhouse QC.

The report named and criticised almost 200 people for either abusing children or for failing to sufficiently protect children in their care.

It said systematic abuse, a climate of violence and a culture of secrecy existed in dozens of children's homes over two decades.

It made 72 recommendations calling for sweeping changes to the way local councils, social services and police deal with children in care.

One of these recommendations included the appointment of an independent children's commissioner in Wales to protect the interests of all children.

The National Assembly for Wales has already agreed to establish the post but ministers have come under fire for failing to introduce a similar office in England.

Speaking to the BBC, junior health minister John Hutton said the report must be the "catalyst for change" in the care of children.

"We are going to be accepting, in general, all of the recommendations in Sir Ronald's report which disclose an absolute dreadful state of affairs which lasted for many, many years."


Sir Ronald Waterhouse
Sir Ronald Waterhouse, report author
He added: "We will be establishing a new children's rights director for England who will have broadly very similar powers and will for the first time be able to take a national overview of all the arrangements that relate to vulnerable children who are receiving services from local authorities."

Criticism

But charities have dismissed the claim and have called for a commissioner and not a director to be appointed to protect the 55,000 children in care in England.

NSPCC child protection director Neil Hunt said: "If something good is to come out of the terrible suffering highlight by the Waterhouse Report, it must be that the next generation of children in care get their voices heard.

"Individually, they need a statutory right to access independent advocates who can help them speak out and, collectively, they need a powerful children's commissioner to speak up for them and all children."

Childline chief executive Valerie Howarth added: "Children must be able to speak to people they trust and who have the authority to take their issues forward.

"For too long they have not been listened to, often with dreadful consequences."

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15 Feb 00 | Wales
Decades of silent suffering
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