New abuse inquiry for S Wales

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Police yesterday launched another large-scale inquiry into allegations of abuse at children's homes.

More than 50 detectives will investigate claims of sexual and physical abuse at five homes in South Wales over the last 23 years; they expect to interview up to 800 people.

Although some of the allegations date back to the early 1970s, the most recent involve abuse said to have occurred only four years ago. The seven people who have complained of abuse were aged 10 to 19 at the time of the alleged offences.

The new investigation will fuel claims that abuse was endemic in Britain's children's homes during the Seventies and Eighties in a loosely policed care system where workers were moved on rather than investigated when allegations were made by children who were both vulnerable and isolated from their families.

Allan Levy QC, the leading child-care lawyer who chaired the Staffordshire "pindown" inquiry said yesterday that the Government should now take action and implement a general council for social workers to oversee standards in the profession and make whistleblowing easier.

The total number of police inquiries into abuse allegations at care homes, many of which are ongoing, is now approaching 20. Cheshire, Merseyside and North Wales have been the most extensive, and the tribunal into abuse in homes across North Wales is still taking evidence.

The new inquiry in South Wales comes in the wake of an earlier police investigation into alleged abuse at the now-closed Taff Vale children's home in Cardiff. Six people have been charged, and it was evidence from that inquiry that prompted the further investigation.

It will look at five homes - the Glamorgan Farm school at Neath, and the Sully assessment centre, Headlands centre, Bryn-y-Don, and Crosslands children's home, all in Cardiff. Only Crosslands and Headlands are still open, although the allegations in both cases relate to several years ago.

Detective Chief Superintendent Phil Jones, head of South Wales CID, said yesterday, "As far as the alleged culprits are concerned none of them are today working in positions where they have day-to-day control of children or young people ...

"This investigation presents people with the opportunity to speak to us about any concerns they have. I estimate there could be up to 800 people who passed through these places and so the potential is there for this inquiry to evolve into a complex and wide ranging investigation."

A confidential hotline - 01656 869484 - has been set up. It will be staffed from 8am to 10pm, and counselling will be available.