Five decades of suffering 'must lead to care reform'

SURVIVORS of horrific abuse in Scotland's children's homes last night urged the government to implement a report that would overhaul child care services and support former residents.

An investigation into institutional abuse over five decades, launched yesterday, has recommended ministers set up a national taskforce to oversee the current service.

The independent report, ordered by the former Scottish Executive, also recommends a centre is established for those who were abused in homes, offering counselling, advocacy service and access to personal records.

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Last night, the minister for children and young people, Adam Ingram, admitted more work was needed to secure children's safety. He said the government backed the proposals and planned to take them forward.

But survivors said the review did not go far enough, and called for the care homes where staff subjected them to mental, physical and sexual assaults to be named and shamed.

Elizabeth McWilliams, 70, of Glasgow, said: "I've lived in a world of silence and shame to suit society. I would like to leave this world without the pain I've got. Give me the apology I deserve for the atrocities I've suffered."

Report author Tom Shaw, former chief inspector of education in Northern Ireland,

said the accounts of abuse he had heard were "harrowing" and warned: "There are still unqualified people working in residential child care. That's in 2007."

He added: "If there's one key message out of this, it's about taking children seriously."

The "ultimate disservice", he said, would be to allow them to be abused a second time - as adults - by not listening.

The review involved going through children's residential homes' records as well as pulling together all relevant legislation and regulations over the time period - 1950 to 1995.

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About 35 victims were interviewed, with evidence taken from another 80 people.

The national task group he is calling for would oversee services for children in care, and report directly to the education, life-long learning and culture committee. It would look at advice and advocacy services for children and ensure there is a place they can go to complain.

The centre for former residents would provide counselling and advocacy services and ensure records are kept properly.

The third recommendation is for the government to introduce new legislation to regulate records on children's homes.

Helen Holland, 48, who was abused in Nazareth House, Kilmarnock, said the proposals were "excellent".

She said: "Survivors are not given the respect they deserve. They are asking for information about their own lives and they are pushed to one side."

David Whelan, 50, was in Quarriers Village in Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire. The carer who sexually abused him was later convicted.

He has set up a support group, Former Boys and Girls Abused of Quarriers Homes.

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He said: "I believe if the Scottish Government is serious about dealing with the issues, the only way they can demonstrate that is implementing fully Tom Shaw's recommendations."

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 this work had already started and added: "[The report] identifies the significant improvements which have been made but we can be in no doubt, further work is essential."

Tom Roberts, of Children 1st, said the charity "welcomes the recognition that victims of abuse need access to more support and believes a national centre could be beneficial".


HELEN Holland, 48, of Alexandria, is the former vice chairwoman of Incas (In Care Abuse Survivors).

She was a resident of Nazereth House between 1963 and 1974 and was a victim of sexual, physical, mental and spiritual abuse.

She went through her adult life believing "there was something wrong with me because I was told the devil was in me".

The mother of one said: "When you are told it often enough, you start to believe it. When things started to go wrong in my life, I thought it must be because I was evil."

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Eventually, following the death of her first child, she had what was effectively a breakdown and was referred to a psychiatrist.

When a former resident of Nazareth House told her story to the press, Ms Holland also spoke out against her abuser, but was told by police that the woman was not going to be prosecuted, as she was too old and infirm.


ELIZABETH McWilliams, 70, from Shawlands, Glasgow, lived in the Quarriers Village in Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, from 1939 until 1954.

She said: "I was an innocent child in care. I went in with my twin brother, but I never even knew he existed.

"My father paid eight shillings a week for my keep, but I was told I was this unwanted, unloved orphan.

"Animals were better treated than us. I was only a child of five, and I was scrubbing. I didn't know what a doll was. I didn't have anyone. My whole life has been ruined, to this very day."

Mrs McWilliams, a mother of four and grandmother of four, began to seek answers for what happened to her after her husband died in 2003. "I want the closure once and for all," said the former auxiliary nurse. "No-one can give you answers to this. The shame is too bad. This is a period of shame in Scotland's history."