Labour urges inquiry into child abuse scandal

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The Independent Online
Labour has demanded an immediate public inquiry into allegations that children in Buckinghamshire homes are victims of physical and sexual abuse.

The call followed reports in yesterday's Independent which highlighted allegations of neglect in five homes; documentary evidence was provided by senior authority workers.

In a separate development, the Welsh office has announced an inquiry into child abuse in more than 46 council homes in North Wales. The investigation, which was prompted by a string of criminal trials of care workers, will be concluded and published within a few months.

Buckinghamshire denied yesterday that its children's homes were "out of control" - as a senior authority worker described them in yesterday's Independent. It denied that it had attempted to "cover-up" evidence of abuse in children's homes, or that it had allowed any children to live with known paedophiles when they should have been in care homes.

The Independent has since, however, provided the authority with evidence to assist in investigating the allegations. Prior to publication, the Independent was provided with access to a variety of internal documents in support of the allegations.

A Buckinghamshire homes spokesman said: "The county council is still looking at the story in the Independent and trying to unravel it. If there are things that need investigating, I am sure they will be investigated."

Margaret Beckett, Labour's spokesman on health, said: "There should be an independent inquiry into these allegations and a published report if public alarm is to be allayed. It is absolutely astonishing and a gross dereliction of duty that Mrs Bottomley has not yet responded to clear indications that there are problems in more than one children's home in the county."

Under the Children Act, the secretary of state has the power to take over the management of a local social services department.

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