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Horrific abuse of hundreds of children in care, of the sort which led to a£10m inquiry into North Wales care homes...
Horrific abuse of hundreds of children in care, of the sort which led to a£10m inquiry into North Wales care homes, could still be destroying young lives across the country, reported The Observer (p13).

The long-awaited report into the scandal will finally be published this week, more than three years since a tribunal began looking at 20 years of alleged systematic abuse in children's homes across two Welsh counties.

Despite the uproar the investigation has caused, the man who led the inquiry, Ronald Waterhouse, says children in care are as vulnerable to paedophiles as ever. In comments to a conference of experts last week he said he doubted there had been much improvement to the care system.

'In spite of the fact that this occurred 10 to 20 years ago, I would be surprised if the incidence of abuse has dropped in such a short time'.

Insiders said the former high court judge was 'changed forever' by the accounts of the 250 men and women who came to the inquiry and by hearing the statements of 200 others. The allegations were of rape, beatings, and a conspiracy of abusers in and outside the homes. For 14 months the inquiry heard stories of horrific sexual and physical abuse from those who had been children in care. They accused a total of 148 people, who cannot be named for legal reasons, but who include policemen, social workers and prominent public figures. A few have been prosecuted.

Sir Ronald's report is likely to recommend wholesale changes in the care system, including recommendations that all allegations of abuse by children in care are independently investigated.

Last year the NSPCC conducted 82 investigations into physical and sexual abuse of children in care. It wants the government to appoint a children's commissioner.

Meanwhile, In a letter to The Times (p17), Jim Harding, director and chief executive of the NSPCC, and Jo Williams, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, call for the appointment of an independent children's commissioner to champion the needs of UK children.

'The first task of this office must be to guarantee the voice of every child is heard and that their concerns are properly investigated in an open way. We believe such an appointment would be the single most important outcome of the north Wales child abuse inquiry.'

The letter adds: 'It would give us all confidence that Waterhouse's recommendations will be acted upon and, most importantly, boost the confidence of children that there is someone holding the rest of us to account.'

And The Independent (p6) reports that the Tory Party will announce today that one of its first acts in government would be to give every child in care an adoption plans and create new child abuse protection standards.

Labour ministers will also be invited to back a private member's bill to ensure that children who have been in residential care homes for more than two years are put up for adoption.

David Davis, a senior Conservative backbencher, will be appointed this week to chair his party's commission on adoption and fostering, with a remit to draw up cross-party legislation on the issue.

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