Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Monday, 11 May 2009 17:12 UK

'Major failings' at abuse school


The Kerelaw Residential Unit was closed in 2006

An inquiry into a school for vulnerable youngsters hit by child abuse allegations has reported "significant failures" in management.

The Kerelaw Residential Unit in Stevenson, Ayrshire, was closed in 2006 following a police investigation.

In 2007 the Scottish Government asked former civil servant Eddie Frizzell to carry out an independent investigation.

His report said physical abuse was "prevalent" at the school but for years no study was done of what was going on.

He said there were major failings in Glasgow City Council's stewardship of the residential facility.

The report said: "Overall there was a significant failure in leadership and management that led to the relative neglect of Kerelaw and, as a consequence, the dual abandonment of those who lived and worked there.

"That failure did not occur only in Kerelaw's final years. It grew over many years under changing circumstances and different management regimes."

Although a range of allegations, complaints and concerns emerged and were investigated, there was no systematic overview taken of what lay behind them
Independent Inquiry report

Glasgow City Council spent three years investigating the workings of the unit and a report in 2007 found that as many as 40 care workers abused children at Kerelaw.

Mr Frizzell's report said: "The inquiry concluded that over a period of years, although a range of allegations, complaints and concerns emerged and were investigated, there was no systematic overview taken of what lay behind them and such findings as emerged produced no lasting effect.

"It was not until the summer of 2004 that this pattern was broken when Glasgow City Council established a joint social work/education investigation team to look into current and historic allegations of abuse at Kerelaw."

Kerelaw opened as a residential school in 1970 and a secure unit was added in 1983.

Abuse convictions

It was run by Strathclyde Regional Council until local government reorganisation in 1996 when Glasgow City Council took it over.

A former teacher and a unit manager were convicted of abuse in 2006.

The independent inquiry report said that in 2007 Glasgow City Council reported between 350 and 400 allegations from 159 people complaining of emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

Some youngsters told the inquiry they had been hurt as a result of being poorly restrained, and others said they has been assaulted without any pretence of being restrained.

Some staff admitted undertaking restraints that were poorly-executed but none admitted intentionally assaulting youngsters in their care.

The council will use the Kerelaw report as a key document in reviewing its strategy for residential child care
Cllr Steven Purcell
Glasgow City Council

The report said that one method of restraint, known as "therapeutic crisis intervention" (TCI) was adopted in 1996 by Strathclyde council and was meant to calm down critical situations.

But some staff used physical intervention as a first rather than a last resort- and there was also emotional abuse.

"The language of failure and 'dumping', ridicule about family backgrounds and teasing and bullying seem all to have played a part in the emotional abuse of residents," said the report.

The inquiry report contained a range of recommendations to prevent a similar situation happening again in the residential care sector.

They included calls for better training, better complaints procedures for children, more rigorous follow-ups to inspections, better record keeping and more effective investigation and discipline processes.

Steven Purcell, leader of Glasgow City Council, which jointly ordered the report with the Scottish Government, accepted the findings in full.

He said: "Residential units play a vital role in the care of vulnerable young people and in the coming weeks the council will use the Kerelaw report as a key document in reviewing its strategy for residential child care.

"I believe that we can learn key lessons from this report and can confirm the commitment of Glasgow City Council to ensure that the circumstances which led to this inquiry are not repeated."

Residential carers

Children's Minister Adam Ingram welcomed the findings of the latest report.

Mr Ingram said: "All of the young people who attended Kerelaw deserved absolute care and support to help them overcome any difficulties in their lives and move towards a bright future.

"We regret that for some that was not the case and that is not acceptable.

"Although Kerelaw closed years before this government took office, we're clear that it is all of our duty as a society to confront what happened in an open and honest way."

He added: "While the recommendations in this report primarily concern Glasgow, the Scottish Government has fully taken on board all those with implications at a national level and it is clear that this report must also be considered carefully by all providers of residential care and local authorities who place children.

We particularly welcome the criticisms of the Investigatory Team's work and its reporting
Ronnie Stevenson

"I am determined to ensure that residential child care provides the best possible support for those children whose needs it serves best."

Unison, the Union representing the social care staff who worked at Kerelaw, said it agreed with the inquiry's recommendations.

Ronnie Stevenson convenor of Unison's Glasgow City branch social work stewards said: "While it will take us some time to look in full at the 154 page report from Mr Frizzell, our preliminary view is that we find ourselves in agreement with the general trend of its conclusions and recommendations.

"We particularly welcome his criticisms of the investigatory team's work and its reporting. They left many staff unaware and isolated. They left many perfectly good child care staff "broken" people with devastating effects on their families.

"Their actions left all ex-Kerelaw staff, regardless of their practice, with their reputations tarnished and often their ability to find employment compromised."

Unison also said that many of the report's recommendations were about issues which they have been raising with Strathclyde Regional Council, Glasgow City Council and the external inspection regimes for years.

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