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CODE OF SILENCE HELPED HIDE NORTH WALES CHILD ABUSE

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The Waterhouse report into horrific sexual abuse at North Wales children's homes has exposed dire failings in the m...
The Waterhouse report into horrific sexual abuse at North Wales children's homes has exposed dire failings in the management of the former Clwyd CC and Gwynedd CC social

services departments.

The report says there was persistent sexual abuse in children's homes in Clwyd and physical abuse in homes in Gwynedd.

Serious sexual abuse took place between 1974 and 1984 at Bryn Estyn in Clywd at the hands of deputy principal Peter Howarth and senior housemaster Stephen Norris. A 'cult of silence' meant the abuse was not discovered as quickly as it should have been.

At Clwyd during this period the report identified a 'pattern of non-disclosure' of criticisms of management to the then chief executive.

There was poor planning, inadequate surveillance by field social workers, and a 'reluctance to believe complainants'. The council had a 'flawed' belief that if the police dropped a prosecution that was the end of the matter.

'Some officers were . . . aware for the need for action well before the [Children] Act of 1989 and the major fault in responding to that need lay with senior officers, most of whom had inadequate skill in management and who made little effort to overcome their initial lack of expertise in childcare matters,' the report says.

In Gwynedd there was a 'pervasive intention among senior officials . . . to suppress complaints, however serious they might be'. 'The organisation and management of

community homes were such that a degree of child abuse was almost bound to occur and the only cause for relief is that it did not occur on a greater scale.'

Recommendations of the report:

The report makes 72 recommendations, including:

An independent children's commissioner for Wales

An advisory council for children's services in Wales

An independent regulatory agency for children's services in Wales

A qualified children's complaints officer for every council

Clear whistleblowing procedures

A requirement to make failure to report abuse a disciplinary offence

A national review of pay, status and career development of residential child care staff and field social workers

Elected members should be advised about and reminded of their duties regarding the council's parental obligations towards looked-after children.

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