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Care law 'anomaly' to be probed.

BBC News, 14/06/2007.


First Minister Alex Salmond has pledged to investigate a possible loophole allowing people suspected of abusing children to continue working with them.

His comments came as party leaders raised concerns over a report which revealed details of abuse at the Kerelaw Residential Unit in Ayrshire.

People can still work with youngsters if they are "provisionally" on the list banning them from doing so.

At First Minister's Question Time Mr Salmond said this seemed "anomalous".

Speaking in Holyrood, he shared concern over the Glasgow City Council report into the unit for vulnerable youngsters.

He pointed out that the report indicated a number of people had been referred to the list of people disqualified from working with children and added that an independent report of in-care abuse was to be completed this year.

But the first minister said: "There is a part of the process just now which allows that, if referred individuals have jobs at the time of the referral, they can continue work even during the provisional listing stage.

"I'm asking to have a look at that aspect, because it seems to me anomalous and not equivalent to what happens in other organisations where people, for example teachers, are often suspended from duty in these circumstances."

'Culture of abuse'

The Scottish Tories and Liberal Democrats called for measures which would see the immediate suspension of people who worked with children and had been accused of abuse.

Conservative leader Annabel Goldie said: "I think it will fill people with horror that, instead of an environment for the provision of care, Kerelaw seemed to become an environment breeding a culture of abuse."

Nicol Stephen, the Liberal Democrat leader, added: "These are children who have had bad starts in life made worse by the way the state has looked after them.

"Too often, our most vulnerable children are the ones who are let down the most."

The concerns were shared by Irene Oldfather, Labour MSP for Cunninghame South, where the Kerelaw school was located before it closed in 2006.

"Both in the interests of protecting children, but also of staff who have been placed on the list without any criminal conviction, it is essential that referral cases from provisional to permanent status are dealt with as quickly as possible," she said.

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