Abuse Scandal: Minister to lead taskforce

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The Independent Online
Residential care for children has been "a woeful tale of failure at all levels", Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, said in response to the Utting report. A ministerial taskforce will be set up to deliver a "safer environment" for children.

Responding in the Commons to the report, Mr Dobson said that he would be leading a ministerial task force, involving ministers and expert advisers to put forward "a full programme of policy and management changes to deliver the safer environment that children living away from home are entitled to".

The Government was already committed to the creation of a statutory General Social Care Council to regulate standards of conduct and practice, he added. Paying tribute to "the many dedicated people" caring for children, he said: "We owe it to them and to the children they look after to root out and punish the wrongdoers and also to put into place a system which helps rather than hinders their efforts."

The National Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Children welcomed the report, but said it was imperative that the Government ensured its recommendations were put into action within a short given time scale.

Mike Taylor, NSPCC director of children's services, said: "We must ensure that, whether in private boarding schools, hospitals, youth custody or in local authority residential homes or foster care, each and every child is offered the same proper level of protection."

Roy Taylor, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, said care had improved substantially compared with 20 years ago. "Now 80 per cent of heads of children's homes are professionally qualified and there are independent inspections of children's homes," he said. "However, because we have had to make cuts in recent years, even though the quality of care has gone up in the services which are being provided, there is not enough choice."

l A report into state-run children's homes in Scotland which care for 10,000 children was also published yesterday to run parallel to the Utting report.

Former social work director Roger Kent said his "Children's Safeguards Review" followed "major and widely reported episodes of abuse" in recent years and recommended better recruitment, raising the status and professionalism of the carer service and better information and reporting of incidents as culture that does not tolerate abusive behaviour.

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