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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 June 2007, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
'Up to 40 staff' abused children

As many as 40 care workers abused children at an Ayrshire school for vulnerable youngsters, a report claims.

Glasgow City Council spent three years investigating the workings of Kerelaw Residential Unit in Stevenson.

The local authority-run establishment, which closed last year, looked after youngsters with significant emotional, social and behavioural problems.

It was shut after allegations of abuse came to light in 2004 and a follow-up police investigation.

The council has spent the last three years investigating allegations of abuse.

Kerelaw was a secure unit which provided accommodation for up to 24 children, from throughout Scotland, with an open school for 50 others.

David Comley, the council's director of social work, said some of the staff involved could still be working with children.

He said: "The conclusion is that we have failed to listen to complaints from children and failed to take them seriously enough.

April 2004 - Care Commission produces a critical report
April 2004 - Glasgow City Council alerted to abuse claims
June 2004 - Police probe leads to staff suspensions and transfers
December 2004 - Kerelaw Open School is closed
March 2006 - Kerelaw Secure Unit is closed
June 2007 - Glasgow City Council's Kerelaw investigation report published

"None of the staff we have dismissed will be working in childcare. It is possible that (some of the others) are still working with children."

First Minister Alex Salmond said he would investigate a possible loophole allowing people suspected of abusing children to continue working with them.

People who are "provisionally" on the list banning them from working with youngsters or have been referred to it are still able to do so.

Speaking at First Minister's Questions, Mr Salmond said this seemed "anomalous".

The report's findings, which will be made public later on Thursday, said a significant core of staff at the unit had been involved in either sexual or physical abuse of youngsters.

It also said that a far larger number of staff had knowledge of the abuse and were unwilling to address the issue.

The report does not indicate how many children were abused over the years.

In a statement, the council said that 14 members of staff were sacked and others disciplined.

It added that the names of former employees have been referred to the Scottish Executive under the terms of the Protection of Children (Scotland) Act 2003.

'External management'

A council spokesman said: "Following an exhaustive investigation, it is clear there was a long standing failure within Kerelaw itself to provide appropriate care and education to its young people.

"Within a culture of fear and collusion, it is evident that allegations from young people went unheard.

"Deficiencies in the external management system that oversaw Kerelaw contributed to this failing.

"A number of independent individuals and organisations with access to Kerelaw were also in a position to identify abuse but they too failed to do so."

He added that as a direct consequence of the investigation, the council implemented "a wide ranging response to safeguard young people within our care system in future".

Appalling abuse

The spokesman said: "Vital lessons around external management and monitoring have been learned and this has led to extensive measures being put in place to protect all the young people in our care.

"We are now confident the kind of appalling abuse inflicted by those in positions of trust at Kerelaw should be prevented from happening again."

Scotland's Children's Commissioner, Kathleen Marshall, said that more needed to be done to encourage whistle-blowing.

She said: "The shocking thing about this is that we have committed to listening to young people but there remains such a culture of disbelief and this indicates that we are just not listening properly."

Last year, two men were found guilty of physically and sexually abusing children in their care at Kerelaw. Art teacher Matthew George, 56, was jailed for 10 years at the High Court in Edinburgh for a "horrifying catalogue" of 18 offences.

Residential care worker John Muldoon, 53, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail for four offences.

Jail terms for school abuse pair
01 Jun 06 |  Glasgow and West
Action plan for troubled Kerelaw
15 Oct 04 |  Scotland
Closure plan for troubled Kerelaw
13 Oct 04 |  Scotland
Inquiry at school for vulnerable
18 Jun 04 |  Scotland
Kerelaw 'has not learned lessons'
28 Apr 04 |  Scotland
Measures to tackle young offenders
08 Jan 04 |  Scotland

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