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Quarriers' response to allegations of child abuse

The Business 03/10/03

Quarriers, the care charity, reports today on its responses, and the findings of a specialist after care worker, appointed a year ago, following the convictions of two former members of staff for abusing children in their care, more than 30 years ago.

Pam Barr's remit has been to follow up the organisation's concerns about the welfare of former boys and girls and to assist any who wished to access their personal files and help them with any issues that might arise. Quarriers holds records of more than 30,000 children who spent at least part of their childhood in the care of the Charity.

Quarriers has been inviting former boys and girls to use the service through their website and the press. Almost 100 have made contact in the last 12 months. The vast majority seeking to find out what records exist of them, or, looking for ways to contact other children who shared their childhood experiences. Pam Barr says that very few of the approaches have been directly related to allegations of sexual abuse. She says, "Some people who have been contacted by the police have subsequently contacted me and have told me that they are glad that this is now coming out in the open".

Since allegations of historical child abuse first surfaced Quarriers has adopted a policy of openness. Chief Executive Phil Robinson says, "I am conscious of the potential damage to our organisation from adverse publicity, but I am determined to confront the issues and hopefully see them resolved. It is vital, for the sake of the thousands of families and individuals who depend on our services right across Scotland today, that we are finally able to put our past firmly behind us, and concentrate on the present and the future"

Police have examined around 150 files from Quarriers since their investigation began. Two former members of staff have received lengthy prison sentences for serious offences and two further cases are pending and are expected in court in the next month.

Quarriers has co-operated fully throughout lengthy police inquiries, while improving access to their archives and developing support services. Phil Robinson says, "When we embarked on this course of action, we had no idea what would happen. There have been inferences in the media that there were hundreds of child sexual abuse cases out there, but so far we have handled formal allegations from two people which, with their consent, have been passed on to the police. There may of course be others because people will not necessarily come to us first or at all".

Pam Barr says: "We have not been deluged".

Quarriers Village was founded in the 1870s by Glasgow philanthropist William Quarrier as an alternative to the harsh conditions experienced by orphaned and destitute children on the streets of Glasgow. It was set in rolling countryside with children housed in "family" cottages looked after by house mothers and fathers. At one time it was home to 1,600 children but these numbers reduced rapidly through the 1970s as more community-based alternatives were developed.

Today, Quarriers has almost 80 projects around Scotland dealing with epilepsy, respite care for children with disabilities, homeless young people and families with problems. One unit in Glasgow specialises in teaching parenting skills. The Charity operates in 14 local authority areas, covering two thirds, of the Scottish population. It is the third largest care charity in the country.

In Quarriers Village itself, many of the buildings have now been sold as private dwellings, but a total of 25 children are currently looked after at three specialist units, which operate rigorous Child Protection Policies and Procedures. Quarriers carried out an internal review of security when it was first discovered that a suspected paedophile was resident in the village and this was followed up by a request by the charity to the police and the local social work department for an external assessment of community safety measures. Both approved.

Parents of the children were also consulted and they gave their support to the measures in place. In accordance with national guidelines and best practice, no unauthorised person is given access to children in Quarriers' care; children are supervised at all times and are not allowed out of the units unaccompanied; all 1,300 members of Quarriers staff have been police checked for their suitability to work with children and these checks are repeated on promotion or change of job; child protection methods are reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Phil Robinson says, "Quarriers today is a totally different organisation to the one that existed decades ago, when things were allowed to happen which should never have happened. We acknowledge that mistakes were made at the time when there was less understanding of the darker side of human nature".

"We have encouraged anyone who has suffered to come forward, so that they can get the support they need. If people have committed offences they should be dealt with by the courts".

"We believe that most people understand that the cases now being dealt with belong to a different era. This is evidenced by the increase in the Charity's annual turnover from £15m to £30m during the three years since the first allegations of child abuse were made. Last year voluntary contributions from the public reached an all time high at nearly £1,400,000 and new projects and new services were launched, requiring an increase of 300 in this organisation's payroll.

 

This information and further details from: The Business - Colin Adams/Carol Anderson tel 0131 718 6022

 
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