Leading organisation representing adults who were in care in the UK as children calls for comprehensive national investigation into past abuse in the care system

Today, The Care Leavers’ Association (1) – the leading user-led organisation representing adults who were in care in the UK as children – is calling for the UK government to follow other countries that are dealing with the legacy of widespread abuse in their child care systems (2) by announcing a comprehensive national investigation of the abuse of children in care in past decades.

Jim Goddard, who grew up in care and is Chair of The Care Leavers’ Association, said:

“Over the years, we in The Care Leavers’ Association have met many adults who were in care as children who continue to struggle with the legacy of abuse that they experienced. Such abuse often occurred before they went into care, but all-too-frequently whilst they were in care. Until the UK government acknowledges its historic responsibility and learns from its past mistakes we cannot have confidence in the existing system as a means of protecting children and ensuring their welfare”.

“We welcome the recent investigations of specific abuse issues ordered by the Home Secretary and others, in the wake of the Jimmy Savile case and various other recent abuse allegations. However, these do not go far enough. The focus on celebrity or powerful abusers obscures the reality that the abuse of children in care was far more widespread than that conducted by a few powerful figures and was more usually at the hands of those charged with the daily care of vulnerable children. Many of our members have experienced abuse whilst in the care system. They are still living with that experience. This applies to children in foster care, as well as those in residential care”.

David Graham, CLA National Director, says:

“These investigations and continuing cases demonstrating abuse, neglect and callous disregard for the welfare and safety of children in care, such as the recent child exploitation cases in Rochdale and elsewhere, show that the problems of the past are often continuing. We also know, from long experience with our members and many other care leavers, that much of the abuse of children in care in past decades was never uncovered and never dealt with.”

He added

“A number of welcome measures to improve the safety and welfare of children in care have been adopted in recent decades. However, several recent cases show that until the UK comes to terms with its legacy of poor treatment of young people in care it will not be able to make the major shift in attitudes and values necessary to significantly improve the lives and safety of children in care. “

The CLA is calling for:

  •  A full UK government investigation of the past abuse of children in care in the UK whilst they were the responsibility of the state. This should include children in foster care as well as residential care.
  • An apology for the widespread abuse that occurred and which is already well documented.
  • The establishment of user-led supportive services for those many individuals who continue to struggle with the legacy of their past experience of abuse. Such support needs to include specialist emergency assistance to help with the problems facing adult care leavers who experienced abuse as children. In the longer term, experienced adult care leavers need to be involved in developing government responses to abuse.
  • A full and comprehensive commission to review the current care system to ensure that it nurtures and develops young people within a safe and caring environment.


Notes to editors

(1) CLA details: www.careleavers.com 0161 236 5665 for more information contact david.graham@careleavers.com

The CLA is a user-led charity established over 11 years ago to improve outcomes for adults who were in care as children and the circumstances of children in care today. It delivers a number of projects and utilises the experiences of care leavers themselves to develop services and policy responses.

(2) A number of other countries have already dealt with, or are dealing with, the legacy of widespread abuse in their child care systems. These countries include Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Canada and Germany. Even the island of Jersey, a UK Crown Dependency, is addressing its own chequered past. These countries have issued apologies and sought to make some form of redress as well as learning lessons. The UK government stands out in its resistance to such an apology and to investigating its own past. This is despite a number of significant abuse investigations in recent decades. Official reports into the ‘Pindown’ abuse system in Staffordshire (1991), physical and sexual abuse in Leicestershire (1993) and the Waterhouse Report into abuse in two counties in North Wales (2000) were just the tip of the iceberg. This was acknowledged by politicians and others at the time, but never followed up.