Pledge to give abuse victims a voice

4th March 2011 at 00:00
National confidential forum for those who suffered in care homes looks likely

A national forum is expected to be set up to give survivors of child abuse in Scotland's care homes the chance to describe their experiences in confidence.

A pilot forum, where former residents of children's homes run by the charity Quarriers were able to tell an independent panel about their memories of care, led to the publication last week of the report Time to be Heard.

Public Health Minister Shona Robison described it as "the first step in what we want to be a much longer journey". She added: "We are keen to take forward a national confidential forum that would involve survivors from many more institutions around Scotland, and will consider the recommendations of the report carefully."

Participants in the pilot described suffering lack of affection, denigration, disproportionate punishment, poor communication and inadequate preparation for leaving care, but some reported positive memories of their time in care.

The initiative involved confidential hearings with 98 former residents of the Quarriers children's homes, ranging in age from 38 to 83, and covering 1935-1985. It was limited to Quarriers, as the organisation has retained good contacts former residents.

The independent panel, commissioned by the Scottish Government, was chaired by Tom Shaw, former chief inspector of education in Northern Ireland.

The forum acknowledged the wrongs of the past and was an effective way of letting people talk in a private setting, said Mr Shaw.

Participants spoke about the forum's impact on their self-respect, self- confidence and progress towards closure. For many, the greatest benefit was simply feeling that their experiences had been acknowledged, he said.

The initiative stemmed from the 2007 Historical Abuse Systemic Review, also led by Mr Shaw, which investigated the background to the abuse of children in Scottish residential schools and children's homes from 1950-95 and analysed the regulation of children's homes.


A new centre for excellence aimed at improving the lives of looked-after children is to be opened at Strathclyde University. It will mean an expansion of the remit of the Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care, and provide specialist training for those working with looked-after children.

The Scottish Government announcement followed the publication of new figures showing that the number of looked-after children in Scotland at 31 July, 2010 was 15,892 - the highest figure since 1982.


Sandy Cunningham, the former head of the Good Shepherd residential care school in Bishopton, is to give evidence at the forthcoming fatal accident inquiry into the suicides of two of his female pupils, Niamh Bysouth, 15, and Georgia May Rowe, 14.

The girls died after falling from the Erskine Bridge in October 2009. The decision to call Mr Cunningham, who is now employed by Glasgow City Council, as a witness follows a hearing last week at Paisley Sheriff Court.

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