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“Whilst it is clearly important that the

Tribunal is able to produce a rigorous and

accurate analysis of the past, the main value

will be to inform the future.”

1 The Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS)

represents all directors of Social Services in England,

Wales and Northern Ireland. Social Services departments

are responsible for some 54,000 children in the public

care, approximately 30 per cent of whom are placed in

residential settings. These settings include residential

homes and residential schools operated by local

authorities and the private and voluntary sectors;

residential health settings operated by the National

Health Service and the private sector, and young

offenders and other special institutions operated by

central government. Other children living away from

home and who are the responsibility of social services

departments live in foster homes. Some of these

placements are provided by voluntary organisations, and

the private sector, whilst the vast majority are provided

by local authorities.

2 The submission repeats some of the points made by

ADSS to Sir William Utting. However, the points bear

repetition as they are also directly relevant to the work of

the Tribunal. They represent the views of chief officers

who have a unique perspective upon the problems under

investigation because of their position as providers,

managers and commissioners of a significant proportion

of residential provision for children and young people

since the Children Act 1948.

3 There have undoubtedly been many important advances

in the public care of children over the years. The

framework of guidance and regulation provided under

the Children Act 1989, together with the more recent

Looking After Children material developed under the

auspices of the Department of Health and Welsh Office,

have provided a robust basis for good practice. There

are, however, a number of issues about which ADSS has

been concerned and upon which this submission will

focus. A consistent underlying theme is that they cannot

be addressed by social services alone, and that a

continuation of a fragmented approach to children’s

services will serve to undermine the best efforts of

individual departments and agencies to safeguard


4 The catalogue of allegations of abuse in children’s

residential settings which has emerged has been of

devastating proportions. ADSS shares the feelings of

outrage experienced by all who consider what happened

to many children who were removed from risky and

unsatisfactory family situations only to experience even

greater risk and trauma in care. These powerful feelings

will, however, only be of direct benefit to future

generations of children if the events and context of the

past are analysed objectively and dispassionately and if

there is a real will to effect future change. We would like

to highlight the following issues:

l There can be no simple organisational remedy, as

seriously abusive situations have been revealed in services

operated by every sector (private, voluntary and

statutory), in every service (education, health and social

services) and within the frameworks and responsibilities

of both local and central government,

l Despite the scale of allegations, completed

investigations reveal that the staff identified as alleged

perpetrators are a small proportion of the total numbers

working in residential care. We should therefore,

recognise that there were, and are, a majority of

dedicated and caring practitioners and managers

working in residential care,

l Information currently available would suggest that a

large proportion of alleged and convicted perpetrators

appear to have worked in the old approved school system,

l Change for the better will not be cost neutral,

particularly in the short term, and any suggestion that it is

will lead to cosmetic and ineffective responses,

l Change for the better will also require a holistic

approach to children’s services which places the needs of

children above organisational or professional interests.

5 This submission is not written in defence of chief officers

responsible for the service under scrutiny by the Tribunal,

nor as a comprehensive analysis of the issues. It is

intended as an objective comment from the perspective

of the Association as a whole, addressing and

commenting upon the past, but concentrating more

upon what needs to be done to protect vulnerable

children in the future. In the knowledge that the Tribunal

has already received a large volume of detailed factual

information from other well informed sources, this

submission focuses more upon the practical implications

of the legal and organisational context within which

residential care for children has operated. It also attempts

to provide a “feel” for what it was like to work in

children’s services during the period under scrutiny.

6 Provision for children in care during this period saw a

transition from the cottage homes, large orphanages and

nurseries run by local authorities and voluntary

organisations under the Poor Law and charitable

provision, to a pattern of smaller family group homes,

some larger homes (including some

reception/observation centres), foster homes and hostels

for young people of working age. The early part of this

period was inevitably pervaded by the culture, values and

approaches associated with the Poor Law and the major

child care charities. Physical care tended to be at least

adequate but care settings reflected all the typical

characteristics of large institutions, such as rigid routines,

strict discipline and limited opportunities for the

development of individual potential. Whilst the Curtis

Committee and the 1984 Act demonstrated a more

enlightened approach, many staff and local politicians

inevitably carried forward previous understandings,

experiences and behaviour. Typically the vision and

enlightenment of legislation was not reflected in public

understanding and opinion, or in practice.

7 The establishment of children’s departments and

specialist chief officers did, however, herald changes in

attitudes and thinking. In particular, there was a steady

but slow evolution towards the values and principles of


* Many children are better served by supporting them

within their own families or by returning them to their

families as quickly as is consistent with their well-being,

Historical Perspective 1948 - 1968

The ADSS evidence to Waterhouse

ADSS page 1

* Large institutional settings are generally not conducive

to healthy child development, especially for very young


* People vested with responsibility for the care of deprived

and disturbed children require proper training for the


8 From these early days there was generally a separation

between the management of residential care and the

training, status and remuneration of its staff and the

management, training, status and remuneration of field

work staff (then child care officers).

At the same time, the Administration of Children’s Homes

Regulations 1951 shaped a situation in which local

authority members became disproportionately involved

with the residential sector. They carried out visits to

homes, often appointed staff, even to very junior level,

and sat on sub-committees dedicated to the

management of children’s homes.

9 The new children’s officers were not only faced with the

legacy of the fragmented situation which preceded the

1948 Act but also had to deal with acute administrative

and resource problems. As receptions into care were now

to be based upon an assessment of need, rather than a

test of destitution, many more children were received

into care and courts made increasing use of their new

powers to commit neglected children and children

beyond their parents’ control to local authority care. The

number of children in the care of local authorities

increased by just over 40% between 1946 and 1953. The

strain this placed upon a system, which at the same time

was required to change radically, is obvious and the

repercussions of this scenario were felt for some

considerable time.

Residential care was the most tangible element of the

new children’s departments and was therefore given a

high priority by senior managers, politicians and the

Home Office Inspectorate.

In her definitive publication Children in Care Dr Jean

Heywood observed:

“it is easy to judge after the urgency of events has faded,

but it seems a pity now that pressure was not brought

on local authorities to appoint more field staff with the

right training, who could extend the amount of boarding

out, and help foster parents to understand its change in

nature. The Children Act 1984 did convey such powers.

Section 41 (5) laid down: ‘A Local Authority shall secure

the provision of adequate staff for assisting the Children’s

Officer in the exercise of his functions’ and Section 13 (1)

laid on the Local Authority a primary duty to board out

the children in care. Doubtless the difficulty of

persuading local authorities to accept the need for staff

was extenuated by the lack of available candidates

qualified for the work and so the emphasis was laid on

the immediate and easier provision of residential shelter

and care.”

Significant deficits in the supply of sufficient numbers of

skilled staff, and the failure to look across the whole child

care service has continued to undermine the

development of a balanced, comprehensive and skilled

service for children in need.

10 An anecdotal point which cannot be easily demonstrated

by documentary evidence, but nevertheless made

powerfully by many former children’s officers and

managers in children’s departments, is that the new

service was not well understood, and was unpopular with

politicians; particularly the less tangible, but crucial areas

of direct therapeutic and remedial work with children

and their families in which it was difficult to demonstrate

the work and to show results. Furthermore, concepts of

“deserving” and “undeserving” recipients to welfare

services tended to influence political thinking and,

perhaps understandably in this context, notions of

providing quality services for “feckless” families and their

children were not well supported. Many children’s

officers felt that they developed their services against the

prevailing attitudes of the times and they needed to rely

heavily upon their ability to invoke the new legislation.

This did not always endear them to those responsible for

apportioning local authority resources. It is interesting

that, much later, when local authority social services

departments were established, fewer children’s officers

were appointed to the new chief officers’ posts than

might have been anticipated. The informal view among

many workers in the services at the time was that this

was because children’s services were not well understood

or favoured by the majority of local politicians.

11 Throughout this period there was a quite separate system

of remand homes and approved schools administered by

the Home Office. These homes had local management

committees and heads, usually with an education

background who enjoyed considerable power and

autonomy. They were, however, subject to regulations

and inspections and were accountable to their

management committee. Few had any training or

qualification in the care of deprived or disturbed

children. These units were staffed by education and care

staff. The latter were generally unqualified and the

former usually only qualified in teaching.

These units tended to be isolated. Management

committees were very dependent upon the information

which heads made available to them, and members of

the committees rarely had the skills or the knowledge to

bring the necessary rigour and challenge to bear in

exercising their responsibilities. Local authority social

workers and probation officers would visit children but

often felt intimidated or uncertain in the setting (a not

unusual experience in large institutions). They often did

not have the experience or status to challenge senior

staff in the institutions when dissatisfied. Others, perhaps

naively, accepted that these specialist institutions were

properly set up and regulated and accepted that they

were doing a proper job. It is easy to understand that

young people who complained would find it difficult to

be believed in such circumstances. It also appears that

young people rarely complained, perhaps because they,

too, recognised the power of the regime.

This level of power and closeness with influential people

which was undoubtedly enjoyed by the heads of

approved schools was sometimes replicated in the larger

local authority residential institutions. There, too, senior

staff would have considerably more contact with senior

managers and politicians than staff at senior levels in

other sectors of the service. Where regime and practice

were sound this may not have been significant. Where

they were not it would have been difficult for lower level

practitioners or managers to raise concerns.

ADSS page 2

12 Finally in this section, it is important to note that, despite

the difficulties outlined, there was a developing identity

and professionalism in children’s departments. This was

underpinned by improvements in professional training

for social work practitioners, including those in the

residential sector.

This, in large measure, contributed to the overall

reduction of the numbers of children in care which

began to accelerate later in the period. The Children and

Young Persons Act 1963 supported a move towards

more preventative work and the development of skills in

direct work with children and families. There was also a

gradual increase in the use of foster care, with social

workers becoming more successful in recruiting and

supporting foster parents able to deal with children with

complex needs. Both these tends led eventually to a very

different cohort of children and young people in

residential care. Instead of a wide spectrum of children,

only a small proportion of whom presented very

challenging and disturbed behaviour, a reducing number

of residential homes were increasingly having to deal

with a total population of very difficult and demanding

children and young people.

13 The early part of this period was dominated by the

implementation of the Children and Young Persons Act

1969 and the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970.

The former was historic in that for the first time it

correlated delinquency with deprivation. It also

attempted to ensure that measures to deal with

delinquency should be varied and flexible. Approved

schools and remand homes, as operated under the Home

Office, were abolished. The existing institutions were

incorporated into the responsibility of local authorities for

community homes with education and for observation

and assessment centres. The concept of regional

planning was introduced. This required each region of

the United Kingdom to look at the whole spectrum of

residential care in every sector and to ensure adequate

provision within its region to meet the needs of children

in order to reduce overlap and duplication through

statutory and voluntary agencies working together. There

was a phased introduction of this new legislation running

over a number of years. Again, as Jean Heywood

commented, this piece of legislative reform has placed

very heavy burdens upon the children’s sections of local

authority departments. She also commented, “the Act is

to come into effect by stages, since it is recognised that

resources of manpower and public opinion cannot yet

cope with all its ramifications.”

14 Regional planning authorities were created and

developed during the early 1970s. The whole of Wales

was one regional planning area, serviced by a small unit

working to the director of social services for Mid

Glamorgan. The authority comprised political

representatives from the Welsh local authorities, which

became eight in number from the time of Local

Government Reorganisation in 1974. They were advised

by the directors of social services and serviced by various

regional groupings of specialist officers.

15 Most of the former approved schools and remand homes

became the responsibility of local authorities, generally

within the area in which they were located. There were

1968 - 1989

also controlled or assisted and voluntary children’s homes

and an increasing number of unregulated private

children’s homes.

Given the historical position of the independent power

and status of the heads and the high salary grades which

were a legacy of the Home Office system, line

management presented a practical problem to local

authorities. For example, heads (even those of relatively

small establishments) were frequently paid more than

senior managers in local authorities with overall

responsibilities for residential care. This often led to

complex systems whereby heads were notionally

accountable to deputy or assistant directors, but for

practical purposes worked to other operational senior

staff. Such situations were open to confusion and

indecisive or unconfident management.

16 The regime in many of the former approved schools and

remand homes was robust and sanctions included the

use of corporal punishment. The relationship between

staff and the young people being cared for was

significantly different from that which exists today.

17 Regional planning authorities and individual local

authorities were also eager to change the perceived

culture of approved schools in order to move towards

the objectives underlying the Children and Young

Persons Act 1969. Many, although not all, of heads of

schools and remand centres were somewhat reluctant to

co-operate with plans for change.

An added complication was the reduction in demand for

remand homes and approved school places being

brought about by changes in practice, legislation and

demography. This led to significant closures of former

approved schools and remand homes during the late

1970s and the transfer of many of the staff to other parts

of the residential sector. Because of their existing salaries

and conditions, which in the main were considerably

better than those in the former local authority sector,

many of these staff transferred to senior positions

regardless of whether their skills, training or experience

really suited them for the task.

18 Not surprisingly, regional planning tended to be

dominated by issues arising from the former approved

school and remand homes system, including the

provision of secure accommodation and it was difficult

for planning authorities to engage fully with the wider

objectives of the Act. It is fair to say, however, that

regional planning in Wales was probably more successful

than in many other areas.

19 The developments in regional planning took place in

parallel with major upheavals in local authorities:

* Following the recommendations of the Seebobm report,

new generic departments were set up in 1971, which

brought together three very different services.

* There were increased public expectations of the new

social services departments, which generated higher


* At the same time, two major pieces of legislation were

implemented (the Children and Young Persons Act 1969

and the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970)

both of which produced a dramatic influx of new work.

ADSS page 3

* This organisational change involved both departmental

mergers and rapid expansion at the same time, with staff

at all levels undertaking new tasks and developing new

working relationships and systems.

The impact of major organisational change upon the

stability and development of operational services has

been well documented and does not need to be

rehearsed here. Major changes and uncertainty in

organisational structures and in individual personnel

clearly increases the risks of vulnerable children within

the systems concerned.

20 Staff in children’s departments were generally supportive

of the concepts behind the Seebohm report as there was

a ready acknowledgement of the need for strategic and

multi-disciplinary approaches to children in need. This

was seen as being much more feasible within the

auspices of larger departments commanding greater

resources and status within local authorities. In the event,

it continued to be difficult to raise the level of general

interest and awareness of children’s issues. Insofar as

senior managers and politicians were able to give

attention to children’s services, this tended to focus upon

the political and strategic aspects of the former approved

school and remand home system. It seems likely that

organisational preoccupation and priorities led to less

attention being given to wider practice and quality of

care issues in children’s services. Thus lacunae in

management systems may have been created which

allowed bad practice to develop or continue unidentified.

21 In parallel with these events, there was an explosion in

training places for social workers. Inevitably, as with any

rapid expansion, the quality in this development was

uneven. The Seebohm report had recommended generic

departments but it had not specifically recommended

generic social workers. However, many local authorities

interpreted the report in this way and throughout the

1970s and early eighties many social workers were

carrying generic case loads. Although the core elements

of social work methodology may be applied in a variety

of situations, there are clearly bodies of knowledge and

skills which are specific to certain situations and client

groups. Thus many social workers were struggling with

new and unfamiliar work. Social work training was also

trying to grapple with covering such a wide canvas and

there was increasing concern that a two year basic

training course could not equip a practitioner to work to

a satisfactory standard in all fields. This problem has

continued, and it is still the case that a newly trained

social worker may have limited knowledge or specific

experience of working in children’s services.

22 At the same time, changes were taking place at central

government level. The former responsibilities of the

Home Office and the Department of Health for social

work services were combined into the new Department

of Health and Social Security. Previous Home Office

inspectors were incorporated into a new Social Work

Service which was not at this stage an inspection service.

In the years immediately following the reorganisation the

impact was not felt too severely because individuals with

expertise in children’s services were still available and

known to local authority staff. Inevitably, as time went

on, this expertise became diluted.

23 The Community Homes Regulation 1972 restated and

sharpened local authority management and inspection of

community homes. However, restructuring of

departments and the addition of former approved

schools and remand homes meant that local authority

members and managers with little experience of

children’s services were often involved in visiting and

inspection responsibilities.

24 The first central government circular covering child

protection was issues in 1974. Since that time there has

been a developing awareness and expertise in local

agencies, initially in the field of physical abuse of

children. During the 1970s and early 1980s knowledge

and understanding of sexual abuse tended to be

confined to occasional cases of incest in families and

indecent assaults by strangers. Sexual abuse within the

family or by care staff was not recognised as a major

issue by central government, local authorities or any

other major agency. In any event, staff issues, including

those involving complaints about criminal or

unprofessional conduct, tended to be dealt with in a

managerial and personnel context rather than through

child protection procedures.

25 During this period there were significant changes in the

contracts of employment of residential social workers,

many of whom would work for very long periods without

overtime. The introduction of a fixed working week was a

significant change, as was the increasing tendency for

residential social workers not to live on the premises but

to have their own personal accommodation elsewhere.

26 There has been a history in residential care of strong

union membership and support. While there has been a

long standing need to address issues of conditions of

service for residential staff, many of the traditional

approaches of unions, and indeed employers, to staff

rights and conditions are not necessarily appropriate in

residential care for children. Although it is important that

staff interests and rights are upheld and that individual

staff receive adequate training and support in what is

demanding and often stressful work, there is also a need

for different approaches to working patterns and to

discipline in this sector of local authority work. Some of

the accepted practices and processes which might be

appropriate to, say, manual workers in technical services,

are frequently not at all appropriate to those who work

with children. During the 1970s and 1980s it was often

difficult for managers to manage, and where necessary to

discipline and remove, unsuitable staff. Advice was often

given to social services managers that they could not act

against obviously unsuitable staff. Similarly, there have

been occasions where managers have acted and formally

disciplined or dismissed unsuitable staff only to find their

decisions reversed by appeal panels of members, or to

become embroiled in adverse and costly industrial


27 The Children Act 1989 has been a watershed in

children’s services. It has reinforced existing good

practice and introduced further improvements in the

statutory context of residential care. There have also

been other valuable initiatives, including the Department

of Health’s Support Force, the Warner Committee and

other enquiry reports which have made valuable


1990 to the Present

ADSS page 4

28 However, implementation of the Children Act was

overshadowed in local authorities by the implementation

of the Community Care legislation. It was difficult for

chief officers to maintain a focus upon children’s services

at a time when major additional responsibilities were

being transferred to local authorities, central government

was requiring formal agreements with health authorities,

and when powerful lobbies for services for elderly and

disabled people were active.

29 Despite the improvements following the 1989 Act, there

are still a number of fundamental problems which ADSS

believes need to be addressed. The Association fully

supports rigorous enquiries into allegations of abuse in

children’s homes and wholly rejects practices which

directly subject, or indirectly condone, abuse of children.

We also recognise that those practitioners and managers,

who are in the majority, practising with skill and integrity

and who are fully committed to good quality children’s

services must be given sufficient support and resources.

Too often they have to work in spite of the prevailing

systems to produce good quality services.

30 Sadly, many of these issues have been recognised and

commented upon since 1948. Although the Children Act

1948 achieved much, the divisions of responsibility

between the Home Office, the Department of Health and

the Department for Education which were a cause for

concern at the time still exist. Separate departments

continue to have responsibilities for children in need

requiring care and separate legislation, regulation and

professional practices. There are still serious shortages of

experienced and skilled practitioners available to work

with looked after children. There is still a significant

ambivalence in our society about children in need which

translates directly into conflicting legislation, priorities

and limitations in resources.

31 Although there have been undoubted improvements in

best practice over the years this is not universal. In

addition, practices and priorities in other services often

impact directly and detrimentally upon the quality of

services to children in need and specifically to children in

the public care. The causes of these problems are

complex and their effective resolution requires

determined and consistent medium to long term

strategies. Some of these problems have been

exacerbated by the increase in the number of local

authorities as a result of local government reorganisation.

Amongst the factors which adversely affect the provision

of a consistent service of adequate quality to children in

need and in the public care are:

* Real cuts in social services year on year throughout the

1990s have severely reduced the available pool of skilled

and experienced staff. The increase in the number of

social services authorities has also had the effect of

spreading the small pool of specialist expertise more

thinly. The pattern of severe reductions in budgets is

continuing in plans for the 1998/99 financial year.

* Although local authorities have tried to protect “front

line” services, reductions in administrative, supervisory

and managerial resources have a direct effect upon the

capacity of front line staff.

* Preventative and supportive services have been a major

casualty of the lack of proper funding for the Children

Act 1989. Services do not generally engage with children

in need until a late stage, when their problems have

become severe. This has obvious implications for looking

after children when they eventually enter the public care

with serious behavioural and other difficulties.

* Community health services which can contribute

significantly to preventative and supportive work with

families are inadequate in some areas.

* As Sir William Utting has identified, there is a real

scarcity of good quality placements for children in any

sector. Poor placements lead to control and discipline

problems within groups, inability to meet the needs of

damaged and vulnerable children, a high level of

movement of children between placements and despair

and demoralisation among field and residential staff and

foster carers. Desperation about finding a placement can

lead to greater risk taking and acceptance of lower

standards of practice.

* In many areas the education system does not provide

adequately for children in need or those with challenging

behaviour. Many children looked after are excluded from

school and do not receive appropriate education.

* Many health authorities do not provide an adequate

mental health service for children, including specialist

support to those caring for very disturbed young people.

* Lack of public sympathy and support for services to

children in need, and the public opprobrium heaped,

often very unjustly, upon social workers over the years

has helped to create a situation in which it is difficult to

attract and retain able people to work in children’s


* There has been an increase in the number of

inexperienced local politicians now charged with

responsibilities for children’s services. Political

inexperience is a greater problem in social services than

other local authority services because, unlike education

and environmental services, they are not universal and

deal with issues outside the personal experience of the


“Whilst it is clearly important that the

Tribunal is able to produce a rigorous and

accurate analysis of the past, the main

value will be to inform the future.”

32 This submission has attempted to give some local, and

perhaps subjective, operational colour to the context of

the events under consideration by the Tribunal. The

Association hopes that this will provide a useful

perspective upon the issues under consideration. Our

greatest concern is to try and ensure that the

opportunity provided by the recent review by Sir William

Utting, together with the report of the Tribunal, will

produce some fundamental reforms and proper long

term investment in children’s services.

Issues for the Future

ADSS page 5