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Wednesday, 16 February, 2000, 15:32 GMT
My life in Scotland's care

Bryn Estyn, Wales Bryn Estyn, one of the homes involved in the scandal

Radical changes to the care of children in homes have been recommended after an inquiry into widespread abuse in north Wales. Paul Steele, who spent part of his life in a children's home in Scotland, has contacted his News Online Scotland to tell about his experience.

I heartily welcome the recommendations issued by the Waterhouse Report.

However, I also have to ask when is Scotland going to put its own house in order?

Following the conviction in 1998 of a member of staff from the home for the sexual abuse of children during the early 1980's, I spent almost a full year trying to enlist legal and political assistance for a public inquiry into the mis-management and incompetence of both staff and senior officials of the area's social services department.

I was seeking assistance due to the fact I had found direct contact with the area's current social services administrators to be a minefield of mis-information and deception.

As I had (and have) no interest in pursuing a compensation claim I found legal help impossible to obtain.

Politicians 'useless'

The "free" advice I was given by the 20-plus legal firms I approached not only varied wildly but estimates of the legal aid assistance I would receive without a claim ranged from 80 to 400.

The political parties and individual politicians I approached were worse than useless.

The worst instance involved the SNP, who showed initial interest and asked that I provide a detailed statement concerning my time in the home.

I still cannot put the nightmare behind me and don't know if I ever will
Despite being assured that the document would be treated with the strictest confidence I was latter informed it had been thrown out by "the cleaning lady" and I was asked to provide a second copy!

After several months waiting for the promised reply I telephoned only to be curtly told: "This kind of thing is not our bag" and no assistance would be forthcoming.

After almost a year I was eventually forced to drop my call for a public inquiry when I was warned "off the record" by a friendly source within social services to drop the matter.

'Dirty war'

I was informed that if I was to continue the campaign I would face a "dirty war" and undergo a lot of suffering with little chance of success.

It has taken me 20 years to put my life back together following my time in that Hole in Hell. The irony is I was not initially ordered into care but placed myself there to avoid a violent home and father.

Despite all my recent success as both an artist and businessman (I founded the Edinburgh International Internet Festival), I still cannot put the nightmare behind me and don't know if I ever will.

However, I am rapidly approaching the position, both financial and emotional, where I need no longer fear speaking out and will be able to become a thorn in the side of those who abused me.

This is one survivor who intends to bite back!

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See also:
16 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Childline seeks new abuse check
16 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Scots child law challenge
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
15 Feb 00 |  Wales
Victims tell of abuse ordeal

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