Inquiry into abuse claims at care home run by Christians

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The Independent Online
JOHN ARLIDGE and

PATRICIA WYNN DAVIES

The Scottish Office is to issue tough new guidelines for the inspection of residential care homes in Scotland. And it is to launch an urgent investigation of registration procedures in the wake of a fresh scandal involving abuse allegations about a home in East Lothian.

The new moves were revealed late last night by Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, Scottish office minister replying in an adjournment debate on allegations surrounding the Humbie Village Centre, near Edinburgh, which was run by the private Algrade Trust.

Residents at the home claim they were forced to live in degrading conditions. One former resident has alleged that a senior care worker sexually abused him and seven others say they were physically assaulted.

John Home Robertson, the Labour MP for East Lothian, said yesterday he was "dismayed and angry at the failure of central government agencies" to deal with problems at the centre which were identified up to 10 years ago. "This is a scandal. Evidence has come to light that patients have suffered from fraud, exploitation and abuse. We must find out what went wrong and establish ways to make sure this sort of thing cannot happen again," he said.

Lothian and Borders police confirmed yesterday that they were investigating the allegations. Detectives are also examining claims of fraud against the Algrade Trust. Senior officials, including the trust's director, Betty Waugh, have been accused of forcing up to 32 patients to draw up wills leaving all their possessions to trustees.

Lothian Regional Council and Scottish Charities' Office inspectors are also examining separate claims that Miss Waugh used Humbie's social security budget to buy a string of properties worth up to pounds 1m. Humbie received pounds 400,000 a year from the Department of Social Security to care for patients.

The allegations, in a BBC Scotland documentary to be screened tomorrow, have prompted calls for a government inquiry. Humbie, which caters for up to 40 children and adults with learning difficulties, was set up 25 years ago by the Algrade Trust. After trustees ignored warnings from Lothian Regional Council to improve conditions at the home, councillors launched an inquiry in 1994. Inspectors found that buildings had no central heating, bathrooms were filthy and residents were forced to eat tinned horse meat from surplus European Union stocks.

Social services chiefs forced the Algrade trustees to resign, and the Church of Scotland took over the residential care home last summer. Kirk officials, who say they believe patients' allegations of abuse, moved residents into new accommodation.

Mr Home Robertson said: "I believe that very large sums of money which should have been spent on the care of handicapped people have been diverted into the former trustees' religious organisation and into property which now belongs to individual former trustees.

"I understand that about 17 properties worth about pounds 2m in and around the village of Pathhead may have been acquired in this way including the high street cafe which is exotically named as a "Video and Satellite Ministry".

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