Cleaning up after Clwyd: Leading article

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Clwyd's secrets are out in the open. Yesterday we published substantial extracts from the inquiry report into child abuse in North Wales and summarised its conclusions. The facts have now indelibly entered the public domain. The Welsh Office, the North Wales Police and the councils that have inherited Clwyd County Council's functions can no longer hide behind the excuse that this is an unpublished document. Truth, damning truth, is out. The judicial inquiry recommended in the report as the only way to draw guidance for the future management of social services departments must be drawn up. It may be utopian to hope that children in care will never again suffer an instance of abuse like this. But the chapters of failure set out in the Clwyd report should be the starting point for drawing up precautionary measures to make sure similar systematic abuse of young people in the state's care should never occur again.

Till now the Government's view, at least as expressed from Cardiff, seems to have been: this is a local difficulty which we already commissioned a lawyer to look at. This will no longer do. William Hague, the Welsh Secretary, is a young man with a bright political future ahead of him. Here is an occasion for him to prove his mettle. He must immediately, in conjunction with Stephen Dorrell, the Health Secretary, appoint a figure of proven independence, protected by law, to inquire into Clwyd speedily, with the express goal of reaching conclusions that may be of wider use.

Much has been made of the way local authority management has improved. Not in Clwyd social services department it wasn't. The Association of Directors of Social Services, if it cares for its reputation, ought to be vocal in demanding a set of precepts for its members' use; it is unlikely Clwyd was so unusual that its derelictions of duty are not being repeated elsewhere.

The Welsh Office emerges from the report as complacent and slack. It must redeem itself by initiating an open and independent policy review.

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