Sacked social worker who blew the whistle

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The Independent Online
ALISON TAYLOR is the social worker who blew the whistle on the child abuse scandal in North Wales. She has information from more than 100 young people alleging they were abused in North Wales children's homes, but she believes that as many as 2,000 children may have been abused over a 30-year period, writes Roger Dobson.

Mrs Taylor went to the police with a series of allegations in 1986 and was later sacked from her job as manager of a home in Gwynedd, the neighbouring county to Clwyd. She claimed unfair dismissal and Gwynedd settled out of court, paying all her legal expenses as well; she then campaigned behind the scenes for an investigation.

Now a successful novelist with Hale and Penguin Books, she says: "When I was in one particular job I became aware that boys and girls were being transferred to homes a long way off, including Bryn Estyn in Clwyd, for no particular reasons as far as I could see. Girls were being sent to a particular home in the North-west of England. Children would be frightened and when children are scared to death they talk, and you realise something is wrong.

"I came back after two years away and was appointed manager of a home in Gwynedd which was being reopened. Children were transferred to me from other homes and they began to talk and I realised there were very big problems.

"I tried to discuss it with the hierarchy and they didn't want to know. The crunch came when a boy who was a resident with me returned home with a head injury after he had been assaulted by a teacher encouraged by a particular care worker. He was taken to hospital and made a state- ment which I took to the hierarchy, but again nothing was done.

"I then thought of other ways to raise the issue. I talked with a councillor and we were advised to go to the police. We met with the head of North Wales CID and an investigation was started, but after six months it ground to a halt.

"I was then suspended and sacked for what was described as a breakdown in communications with colleagues. It was what I had expected for doing what I did. I put in a claim for unfair dismissal and they settled out of court.

"I think there was an expectation that I would go away, but I didn't. I felt released from my obligations. I went to the Welsh Office, who didn't want to know, and the DSS, the social services inspectorate.

"Early in 1991 I decided to put together all the information I had. Since getting the sack I had been approached by many people in care and the parents of children in care and I collected a lot of information. I had received allegations from well over 100 young people who had been abused while in care.

"In the end I had a hefty document which I gave to the police and which was the foundation for their investigation when they were called in by Clwyd.

"I believe the abuse may go back 30 years. I have spoken with young men who were abused in the late 1960s. It is something which became part of the culture.

"In all, more than 2,000 children may have been abused. At times, homes had 100 admissions a year on average and 46 homes were investigated. The police took nearly 3,000 statements and they did not go back 30 years.

"For the sake of the children who were abused and for the welfare of children at risk from future abuse, the Jillings report must be published. We cannot cover up what went on by hiding the report," said Mrs Taylor.