Letter: Nothing will change for thousands of victims of child abuse

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The Independent Online
Sir: I am following with interest your reports of the cover-up of alleged abuse in children's homes in Wales.

I was in care from the age of nine months, with Shropshire County Council. My treatment was far from caring. I was placed in various foster homes, finally going to a family whose nearest neighbours were a quarter of a mile away. I was subjected to sexual, physical and mental abuse at their hands for 12 years. My placement was virtually unsupervised, with scant visits from a representative of the council children's department. My sister was parted from me and yet she was only fostered 10 miles or so from me. No contact was arranged for us.

My suffering has been enormous. Two years ago, my doctor put me in touch with my local victim-support counsellor, who, fortunately for me, is experienced in sexual-abuse work, and to a certain extent she has helped me to come to terms with my life in middle age.

There are thousands of us out there trying to make sense of it all, victims of our "caring" Social Services Department. I truly feel nothing will ever change.

Name and address

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Sir: Everything Judith Timms says in her letter (17 June) about the ineffective nature of the Section 26 complaints procedure in cases of child abuse is true, in my experience.

The procedure is fatally flawed. The administration of the complaints procedure is vested, by Section 26 of the Children Act 1989, in the same organisation that is being complained about. A totally independent social services complaints process is needed - a social services ombudsman.

I have case studies in which local authorities (a) failed to provide "service users" with any information at all about the complaints procedure, (b) when rejecting complaints failed to tell the complainants about an independent further stage, (c) refused to act upon a telephoned complaint, instead insisting on a written complaint and (d) told the complainant not to "make waves" by complaining.

These are all breaches of regulations, and it seems there is within some social services departments a culture of resisting, obstructing and rejecting parents' and children's complaints out of hand.

Only after exhausting the Section 26 procedure can complainants approach the Local Government Ombudsman for a truly independent review. There are so many delays built in to the complaints procedure that this will certainly be months, possibly years, after the events they are complaining about, by which time any individuals involved could have moved on.

BRIAN MORGAN

Cardiff

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