Major reforms for child care after £15m inquiry

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The Independent Online

Sweeping new controls to protect children in care will be outlined tomorrow after Britain's biggest inquiry into child abuse.

Sweeping new controls to protect children in care will be outlined tomorrow after Britain's biggest inquiry into child abuse.

The final report into allegations of abuse at children's homes in North Wales follows an inquiry that began three years ago and which has cost an estimated £15m. It will include a series of proposals that will lead to the biggest shake-up in child care for years.

The report is expected to make a series of recommendations on the policing of homes, the training and vetting of staff and how the childcare system operates.

Lawyers who acted for the tribunal and who worked closely with it have already listed a number of ideas that could be in the report.

Problems they pinpointed included ensuring independence both in investigating complaints of abuse, and in the inspection of homes and services. Resources were also a problem, as well as training and the professional standing of those working in residential care.

Suggested solutions included the creation of a Children's Commissioner, independent investigations, and higher qualified care workers.

Other remedies put forward included the establishment of an independent complaints procedure, with all complaints surrounding children in care sent to an independent investigator. Every child in care would be allocated to a named social worker and a named risk manager.

A national childcare strategy with ministerial responsibility for children, a central vetting agency and a national child protection code were among the other suggested remedies. Also recommended were guidelines to make sure information is passed between the police and social services.

The tribunal, which took evidence of abuse from about 260 former children in care at homes in North Wales, will also detail the problems that allowed so much abuse to occur.

A number of individuals as well as several agencies are expected to be criticised. During the hearings the publication of names of people accused of abuse, other than those who had previously been convicted, was banned. But the chairman, Sir Ronald Waterhouse, has said he will give names in his report where necessary.

Tomorrow's report is also expected to comment on allegations of a paedophile ring operating in North Wales.

In his closing speech Gerard Elias QC, counsel for the tribunal, said: "The tribunal has made detailed inquiries of all police forces carrying out investigations into child abuse in order to seek to establish whether there were links between alleged abusers from North Wales and suspected names in those investigations. Those inquiries have revealed no significant evidence linking, for any paedophile purposes, abusers from this area with those from other areas.''

The inquiry took evidence from about 500 people and was the biggest of its kind in Britain. There were 43,000 pages of evidence including allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse at homes in North Wales over 20 years.

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