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'Paul' - a former resident of Scottish care homes
"Proposals do not go far enough"
 real 28k

Anne Houston, Childline
"I think the situation in Scotland is improving"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 16 February, 2000, 15:34 GMT
Childline seeks new abuse check

Childline website Childline has a special line for children in care


A charity calls for the introduction of a Children's Commissioner in Scotland following the publication of a report into abuse in homes in north Wales.

The report recommends a massive overhaul of the care system after uncovering a paedophile ring that targeted hundreds of young people in care in the 70s and 80s.

Its proposal for a commissioner echoes the findings of an inquiry in 1998 into abuse in children's homes in Edinburgh.


We will never be able to put our hand on our heart and say we can guarantee there will be no abuse but I think we have to get much nearer to that position
Anne Houston
Anne Houston, director of Childline Scotland, said the post would give the 4,000 young people in care in Scotland recourse to an independent monitor.

"We're looking for an independent but statutory children's commissioner, somebody who could monitor young people generally," she said.

"Children and young people don't have a vote, they don't have a formal voice, they're a very unique group and they really need that added support."

Scotland's Minister for Children and Education Sam Galbraith has asked the parliament's Education, Sport and Culture Committee to look at the question of whether a commissioner should be created.

A spokesman said MSPs were expected to report to the executive in the next few months.

Social worker meetings

Another of the Welsh report's recommendations is that children in care see their social worker regularly.

Ms Houston said: "Things are improving in Scotland but unfortunately we still hear from young people calling our line who don't see their social worker alone in a way where they can have that kind of relationship where they feel confident enough.

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"Some social workers are absolutely superb and where that's the case young people are very clear that it's very important to them but unfortunately it's not constant.

"It may be sometimes individuals but it's also systems in terms of the very heavy caseloads that social workers have."

Asked if the abuse uncovered in Wales could be repeated in Scotland, she said: "We would absolutely hope that it couldn't.

Safeguards in place

"There have been changes after the various inquiries that have happened. children's homes tend to be smaller there are various other safeguards being put in but we still hear from young people on our line who do not feel safe in our current system and we have to keep working at that to change that system.

"I think the reality is we will never be able to put our hand on our heart and say we can guarantee there will be no abuse but I think we have to get much nearer to that position."

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Another of the recommendations is that teachers and social workers should be trained specifically in how to spot the signs of abuse.

Ms Houston said Childline wanted that extended to training in how to "listen" to children.

"There is an assumption that people know how to do that.

"There are definite skills involved in encouraging young people to feel safe to speak out and that would be one of the things we would want to add to that to ensure we get to the position where they are taken seriously."

Search for workers

The UK Government is now actively searching for 28 former care workers named in the Welsh report who have not been traced.

Local authorities, health authorities and voluntary groups are being asked to check past and present employment records.

They must notify the Department of Health by Thursday if any of the people named as unsuitable to work with children are employed by them.

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See also:
16 Feb 00 |  Scotland
My life in Scotland's care
16 Feb 00 |  Wales
Officials chase child abuse suspects
15 Feb 00 |  Wales
Decades of silent suffering
15 Feb 00 |  UK
Children in care: Now and then
16 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Scots child law challenge
15 Feb 00 |  Wales
Victims tell of abuse ordeal
20 Nov 99 |  Scotland
Action call on children's rights

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