A group should be formed to monitor the safety and effectiveness of services for looked-after and accommodated children, a new Scottish government-backed report says.
The national task group would report annually on outcomes, check recommendations from previous reviews were being acted upon and take responsibility for improving the standard of the residential child care workforce. It would be answerable to the Scottish parliament.
The recommendation are made by Tom Shaw, former chief inspector of education and training in Northern Ireland, in a review of abuse in residential schools and children’s homes in Scotland between 1950 and 1995.
The report highlighted the “extensive and in many respects impressive” nature of the regulations put in place throughout the period to protect looked-after children from abuse. But it was damning in its criticism of successive governments’ and authorities’ failure to ensure these were adhered to.
It said: “If the legislation had been honoured in spirit and letter when it was being implemented, if the work of residential schools and children’s homes had been managed and supervised as expected, then it’s reasonable to conclude the incidence of abuse would have been lower and the outcomes for many would have been better.”
Researchers spoke to many former residents of homes, who talked about the lack of support and counselling offered to them and the need for their experiences to be heard and documented. The report called for a centre to be established that could provide advocacy, conduct research into former residents’ experiences and create a database of where children’s residential records are kept.
The difficulty in accessing records on children’s homes was also criticised. Although many “valuable” records exist they need “assembling, cataloguing and made available”. It called on voluntary groups to play a part in this and for the government to commission a review of public records legislation.
Scottish minister for children and young people Adam Ingram said he agreed with the review’s findings and would consider how to take them forward.
“In light of this review, I will be looking at how we can learn from the lessons of the past and build on progress to raise the standard of residential care for children,” he added.