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Tuesday, 22 February, 2000, 12:31 GMT
New approach to care system

Young child
The scheme aims to make it easier for residents to talk

Young people who have lived in residential care are set to be taken on as lay inspectors of children's homes in the Lothians.

The initiative is part of a year-long pilot project in which current and past residents will be asked about the quality of life in local authority care.

Lothian councillors will be asked to back the proposal when they meet on Wednesday.

The lay inspectors' pilot scheme follows one of the recommendations of the Marshall Inquiry into abuse in children's homes in Edinburgh during the 1970s and 80s.

'Fail to engage'

It suggested that the inspection process would benefit from the input of those who have first hand experience of the care system.

Child experts in the Lothians have accepted that full-time inspectors can at times fail to engage with youngsters who live in the homes.

It is hoped that by asking former residents to become involved, children will talk more freely about their quality of life.

Bryn Estyn, Wales Bryn Estyn, centre of the abuse
The would-be lay inspectors will be subject to a rigorous screening process before they are appointed.

The care of children in residential homes became the focus of attention when a damning report on child abuse in Wales recommended a massive overhaul of the care system.

The findings prompted the Childline charity to call for the introduction of a Children's Commissioner in Scotland.

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.

Independent commissioner

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

"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," she said.

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 appointed.

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

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See also:
16 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Childline seeks new abuse check
16 Feb 00 |  Scotland
My life in Scotland's care
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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