SEVERE abuse and neglect experienced by children in Scotland’s care system have come to light in a new report.
The National Confidential Forum is gathering testimony from adults who suffered mistreatment whilst children at the hands of those supposed to be looking after them.
They include instances of “cruel physical, sexual and emotional abuse” in a “culture of bullying and silence fuelled by fear” which stopped perpetrators being reported.
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Care leavers reported beatings, force feeding and the withholding of food or sleep. Others said they had been forced to parade around naked with soiled linens as punishment for bedwetting, had their hair cut off or had key visits cancelled at the last minute.
The anonymous accounts have now been published to encourage more people affected by abuse in care to come forward.
Clinical psychologist Dr Rachel Happer, head of the National Confidential Forum, said: “What we have heard so far indicates a number of children were subjected to severe forms of abuse, neglect and degradation in care institutions that were meant to provide protection.”
One victim told the forum that care was “a systematic torture chamber”, with abuse becoming “a way of life”.
Another reported experiencing a practice akin to the banned torture technique waterboarding, saying that her abuser would “fill a bath with cold water and throw you in it, with the towel wrapped around your head, which I think is called waterboarding… and then pour buckets of water over your head.”
Another survivor said: “The first thing I remember about care was fear.”
Almost 80 people have spoken to the panel anonymously so far, with 60 describing experiences of abuse dating from between five and 80 years ago. The incidents happened in residential homes and schools as well as hospitals, boarding schools, school hostels and secure facilities Happer said: “Our aim is to record these experiences as part of Scotland’s history, to learn from them and understand the profound and long-term impact of care and to continue making progress to create care environments where vulnerabilities are tackled and children are supported to reach their potential.”
Responding to the report, titled What We Have Heard So Far, a spokesperson for children’s charity NSPCC Scotland said: “We need to ensure that people who have been abused as children feel confident to come forward, safe in the knowledge that their voices heard and they will receive help and support.”
The Scottish Government said: “We welcome this first NCF report detailing its work over the last 18 months and thank all of those individuals who have come forward to share their experiences of residential care in Scotland.
“The NCF is part of a commitment the Scottish Government made to survivors of abuse in care and was created to give a platform for all people brought up in care to have their experiences acknowledged and documented.
“By publically documenting and acknowledging these experiences we will gain valuable insight and learn lessons that will help ensure our care systems provide a nurturing and safe environment.”