Children in care need outside adult friends for protection, says charity

Children in care need outside adult friends for protection, says charity

By Cherry Norton, Social Affairs Correspondent






Cherry Norton is the Social Affairs Correspondent at The Independent. This article was previously published on 10 January 2000 but unfortunately the link is now dead.

I have made several attempts but I have been unable to reach Cherry Norton to obtain her special permission to publish her article on the NCHR's web site.





The Independent


"Aunt" or "Uncle" schemes that provide independent adult friends for children in care are one of the best ways of ensuring that they are protected from abuse, according to a leading children charity.


The National Society for the Protection of Children (NSPCC), will today urge the Government to open up the care system to greater scrutiny. Extra precautions have been introduced by social services in the past five years but the charity believes that more should be done to prevent child abuse.


As Parliament prepares to receive the Waterhouse report, resulting from the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal, and begins the committee stage of the Care Standards Bill announced in the Queen's Speech, the charity said children deserved "five-star protection". It recommends the Government appoints an independent children's commissioner, guarantees independent investigations of abuse of children in residential and foster care and provides access to safe adult friends who are outside the system.


The "aunt" or "uncle" schemes would be similar to the "big brother and sister" programmes run in the United States but would provide an adult friend rather than someone of the same age. Despite a requirement for local authorities to provide children in care with access to independent visitors under the Children Act 1989, research has shown that only a third of local authorities have done so. Just 4 per cent of eligible children have access to outside visitors.


"Past scandals have shown that the care system can be too closed and insular. Trapped by their abusers too many children have suffered in silence," said the NSPCC child protection director, Neil Hunt. "It is vital that vulnerable children in care have trusted external adults to turn to for help."


Gilda Manley, a 38-year-old laboratory assistant from Cardiff, volunteered to be an independent visitor three years ago. "I had given money to NSPCC for years but had some free time and wanted to do more," she said. She has been visiting Sarah, now 18, who has been in care since she was four years old. Sarah said Ms Manley was the only person she could talk to without the information getting back to social services. "I was getting into trouble at school getting bullied," she said. "Gilda was the only one I could speak to confidentially."


The Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) said it agreed more independent visitors should be recruited but said the NSPCC was only involved in a minority of child abuse investigations. "The majority of investigations are conducted locally by social workers and police staff. The ADSS would not want to see the development of an alternative system that could undermine these arrangements," said Jo Williams, the ADSS president.




The whistleblower's story
Paul Harris and Martin Bright


Lost in Care - The Wales Child Abuse Scandal and the Waterhouse Report


Attorney-at-law Lennart Hane's demand for compensation for the victims of care orders


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