Paedophiles `control children's homes'

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The Independent Online
The senior police officer leading Britain's biggest ever investigation into sexual abuse in children's homes has warned that paedophiles are still at large at senior levels in the social services.

Detective Inspector Terrence Oates expects to see 14 care workers go on trial in Cheshire where hundreds of children were allegedly abused during the Seventies and Eighties. But he fears many of the paedophiles who targeted homes for jobs have continued to work undetected.

His concerns coincide with the findings of the suppressed inquiry into widespread abuses in Clwyd, which addresses allegations that paedophiles worked in groups and set up systemised abuse in homes. It says: "It is clear that sex offenders can and do network."

DI Oates, who has been investigating allegations of abuses by paedophiles working in Cheshire homes for two years, said: "There is evidence some of them have risen fairly high up in social services, and so when allegations started to come in they were in the ideal position to stop it in its tracks."

The unpublished 300-page report into abuse in Clwyd involves seven homes where more than 100 children were abused.At least 12 died in adulthood in circumstances related to their traumatic experiences in care.

The inquiry team of child care experts, led by John Jillings, former director of social work in Derbyshire, says in the report: "The history of allegations of serious abuse of children by staff was frankly appalling in its extent and persistence down the years."

In a damning conclusion the report warns the Government about heeding recommendations on changing practices to avoid another scandal . It says: "Unless the lessons of safe group caring are learnt, in 20 years' time another public inquiry might well be examining the negative consequences."

Childcare experts believe action is needed on four fronts to prevent further abuse in care:the setting up of a General Social Services Council to act as a professional and disciplinary body for care workers; improved inspection and registration of children's homes; the creation of a central index of people with convictions against children; and improved training.

Allan Levy, QC, the authority on child abuse who co-wrote the inquiry into pin-down abuses in Staffordshire in 1991, said:"It is still a question of a child in care may well be a child in danger . . . One of the pin-down inquiry recommendations was that a statutory list of offenders should be set up. Five years have gone by and nothing has happened."

Despite recommendations from a series of inquiries, it is still possible for an applicant with no experience to find work in a residential home with children. The lack of a central register of trained workers also makes it impossible for employers to check references.

Daphne Statham, director of the National Institute for Social Work, which is campaigning for a central regulatory body to oversee workers, has a collection of advertisements that read: "Wanted: Person to work in children's home. No experience required."

Ms Statham said: "Each time there's a scandal it comes up again, but then people forget about it. These children aren't listened to, while there are still people in these jobs being shifted around the system to avoid trouble. Staff are also moving between agencies, getting found out, nothing being done about it, and moving on to the next job."