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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 November 2007, 15:17 GMT
Call for care home abuse centre
A distressed girl

A centre should be established to help former victims of abuse in children's homes, a report has suggested.

It also recommended a "national task group" to oversee services for children in care and residential homes.

The recommendations came in an report commissioned by the previous Scottish Executive, into abuse in Scottish children's homes between 1950 and 1995.

Children's Minister Adam Ingram said he would consider how lessons could be learned from the past.

The report by Tom Shaw, former chief inspector of education in Northern Ireland, focused on child welfare regulations over a 45-year period, and how these were enforced.

It said that despite extensive and complex regulation, they were not "wholly effective in ensuring children's safety and welfare".

Mr Shaw warned that problems still existed, 12 years on from 1995.

'Same problems'

"In some respects you could say that everything that was identified as needing to be done in 1995, is now in place," he said.

"And yet, the same problems are occurring, the same needs exist, and the same concerns that motivated government to legislate in 1995 still exist."

The Children (Scotland) Act was passed in 1995, which set out the rights of children in care.

The proposed centre would help former victims find counselling and other services, would carry out research into children's residential homes and maintain a database of past and present children's residential establishments in Scotland.

Adam Ingram
We must consider with partners and survivors how we can most effectively take forward the lessons to be learned
Adam Ingram
Children's Minister

The task group recommended in the report should have "oversight" of services provided for children in care and in accommodation, study ways of improving their welfare and report to Holyrood's education committee.

Mr Shaw's review also highlighted an "urgent" need for action to preserve old records and ensure former residents can obtain access to them.

The report was commissioned after a Holyrood debate in 2004 in which the then First Minister, Jack McConnell, publicly apologised to children who were abused while in care.

The Scottish Executive had already ruled out an inquiry into allegations of abuse in Scotland's residential homes dating back to the 1940s.

Mr Shaw's report warned against imposing 21st Century views on what happened in the past and noted that attitudes to children had changed, with legal acknowledgement of children's rights only taking full effect within the last ten years.

Public awareness

It said that although abuse was known about during the study period, public awareness did not develop until the 1980s.

"Throughout the period there was a lack of qualified care staff, perhaps a symptom of the low status given to residential child care," he said.

The law responded only slowly to growing awareness of the abuse of children, and corporal punishment was allowed in some residential establishments until the 1980s.

Mr Ingram said: "We are in full agreement with the principles of the findings and recommendations but we must consider with partners and survivors how we can most effectively take forward the lessons to be learned."

He said there would be specific proposals for those formerly in residential care as part of a wider strategy for people who have suffered childhood sexual abuse.

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