Independent Inquiry into Abuse at Kerelaw Residential School and Secure Unit Jointly commissioned by the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council
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We ask a lot of those entrusted with the care of our children and young people. We expect them to keep their charges safe, to guide them, to set an example and to prepare them for adulthood and independence. For those working in residential child care they must provide a home for vulnerable children, substitute for relationships which would be taken for granted in a stable home environment, and at the same time maintain professional boundaries. They must be able to encourage, comfort and at times control. Most of the time they perform a difficult task, out of the public eye and largely out of the public mind until problems erupt, or a tragedy occurs which brings their work into the spotlight. In such circumstances all residential child care workers are caught up in the consequences, whether involved or not in the events in question. In carrying out this Inquiry, the team gained an insight into a world which few people care to think about, far less enter. We saw what can happen when staff lack direction, when leadership is inadequate, when appropriate values are not upheld, and when poor attitudes are not challenged. We saw the impact of relative neglect of an institution by senior managers 30 miles away preoccupied with reorganisation, budgets, high-level policies and internal disputes. The impact on those who were abused at Kerelaw was devastating. A number of ex-residents will require support for some time to come; for others it is an experience to put behind them as best they can. Some, who were not abused, have had what was a positive experience for them besmirched. For many former staff the consequences have also been devastating. We interviewed a number of broken people – ex-workers as well as ex-residents - and we heard from others working with young people who felt a stigma from Kerelaw had affected them and all residential child care workers. It would be a great pity if that were so. While those who were involved in abuse at Kerelaw deserve to be condemned and held to account, it should be recognised that there were also good practitioners at Kerelaw, and that many young people valued the care they provided. Kerelaw has closed, but there are still many young people who need residential care. If their needs are to be met, our social services require a trained and dedicated workforce which is valued by the public and by their employers. We should not let the Kerelaw experience make that more difficult to achieve.