The South Ayrshire Chief Officers' Group (COG) for Public Protection has today (14 December) published the key findings of an independent Significant Case Review into reports of historical child sexual abuse and exploitation at a children's unit in South Ayrshire.
The report – which has been published alongside details of the actions taken to address the improvement themes identified – focused on allegations involving a former residential care worker at Woodhead Road Children's Unit Coylton between 1990-1996 and identifying any lessons that could be learned from how these were dealt with.
The care worker was convicted in two trials – in 2015 and 2016 – of indecency and sexual assault against former residents of the children's house.
The review, undertaken through the independent South Ayrshire Child Protection Committee, found:
-Abuse against some residents did take place between 1990-1996
-Some concerns were raised at the time but were not fully heard and any action taken did not recognise the significance of these concerns
-Other concerns were not raised at the time as the young people didn't feel they would be believed
-There were missed opportunities to deal with reports of abuse made by a former resident in 2007
-Information-sharing and record-keeping at the time was not as effective as it should have been
-Models of care and support at the time did not encourage trust between young
people and staff.
The way in which young people are looked after and consulted about their care has changed significantly since the 1990s, as have the procedures for vetting those who work with children and young people. New legislation, guidance, scrutiny and inspection regimes have also been introduced.
However, the review did identify some areas for improvement in how agencies work when dealing with children and young people. These were based around:
-Person-centred approaches to care and support
-Listening to the concerns of young people in our care
-Investigating any concerns raised thoroughly
-Acting to safeguard young people in our care with robust policies, procedures and training
-Working in and across agencies promoting the GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) principles.
Significant progress has already been made to address these and – at COG's request – ongoing implementation will continue to be monitored by the independent chair of the South Ayrshire Child Protection Committee, Professor Paul Martin CBE.
Professor Martin said: "The protection and care of our children and young people is one of our most important responsibilities and one that we take very seriously indeed in South Ayrshire.
"While there have been significant changes to modern child protection practices and procedures in the two decades since this abuse took place – providing a better framework overall for the protection of children – the review findings show that agencies can, and must, continue to do better to provide our young people with the best care possible.
"While a significant amount of work has already been undertaken by the Council, Health and Social Care Partnership and Police Scotland, I will be monitoring further progress closely to ensure that we achieve this and deliver the best possible outcomes for children and young people across South Ayrshire."
Paula Godfrey, South Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership's Head of Children's Health, Care and Justice, added: "This report makes it clear that there were shortcomings in how staff responded to concerns raised by young people at Woodhead Road Children's Unit in the 1990s and for that we are truly sorry.
"Children's houses should be a place of safety and a place where children and young people are cared for, nurtured and looked after – and that was not the case for those abused by the individual who committed these appalling crimes and breached the trust placed in him to look after young people.
"We know that the provision of care and the way we support vulnerable children and young people has been transformed over the past 20 years; however, we fully accept the findings of the review and have taken positive steps to address the improvement areas highlighted.
"Our services and staff follow the national Child Protection Guidance at all times; we have implemented all relevant statutory and regulatory requirements; we work to keep staff skills, knowledge and expertise up-to-date through extensive training and development; we regularly consult with our young people to ensure our services meet their needs; we work closely with child protection partners to share best practice; and there are robust reporting and scrutiny processes in place to monitor performance.
"I am determined that we will continue to do everything we can to ensure young people in our care are treated with respect and dignity, get brought up in a loving and nurturing environment, enjoy the same opportunities as other young people, and are supported to succeed in whatever they do."
The Woodhead Road Children's Unit Significant Case Review report is available at
Anyone affected by the information in the review report can contact the South Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership on 01292 617678.
Anyone wishing to report abuse – no matter when it happened – can contact the police on 101. Police Scotland is also keen to hear from anyone who has yet to come forward to share their experience of the Children's Unit at that time.