Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kerelaw inquiry concludes many failures as pupils were devastated by abuse

The long awaited report into the Kerelaw School in Stevenson, Ayrshire, has found that significant failures took place at the school and that abuse did take place.

The Herald reports :

Kerelaw: scathing report reveals years of failure at school

A damning report today revealed years of "significant failures" in management at a controversial school for troubled Scottish youngsters.

Physical abuse was "prevalent" at Kerelaw Residential School in Stevenson, Ayrshire, the inquiry report said.

But no proper study was carried out for years of what lay behind the complaints.

And there were major failings in Glasgow City Council's stewardship of the school, said the report by former civil servant Eddie Frizzell.

His report said: "Overall there was a significant failure in leadership and management that led to the relative neglect of Kerelaw and, as a consequence, the dual abandonment of those who lived and worked there.

"That failure did not occur only in Kerelaw's final years. It grew over many years under changing circumstances and different management regimes."

Mr Frizzell was asked by the Scottish Government in November 2007 to carry out an independent inquiry into long-standing abuse at Kerelaw, which closed in late 2004.

"The inquiry concluded that over a period of years, although a range of allegations, complaints and concerns emerged and were investigated, there was no systematic overview taken of what lay behind them and such findings as emerged produced no lasting effect," said today's findings.

"It was not until the summer of 2004 that this pattern was broken when Glasgow City Council established a joint social work/education investigation team to look into current and historic allegations of abuse at Kerelaw."

Kerelaw opened as a residential school in 1970 and a secure unit was added in 1983.

It was run by Strathclyde Regional Council until local government reorganisation in 1996 when Glasgow City Council took it over.

It closed in late 2004 after poor inspection reports, allegations of child abuse, bullying and harassment.

A former teacher and a unit manager were convicted of abuse and jailed in 2006, and the secure unit was closed that year.

Glasgow City Council reported in 2007 that there were between 350 and 400 allegations from 159 people complaining of emotional, physical or sexual abuse, said today's report.

Some youngsters told the inquiry they had been hurt as a result of being poorly restrained, and others said they has been assaulted without any pretence of being restrained.

Some staff admitted undertaking restraints that were poorly-executed but none admitted intentionally assaulting youngsters in their care.

One method of restraint, known as "therapeutic crisis intervention" (TCI) was adopted in 1996 by Strathclyde council and was meant to calm down critical situations.

But some staff used physical intervention as a first rather than a last resort - and there was also emotional abuse.

"The language of failure and 'dumping', ridicule about family backgrounds and teasing and bullying seem all to have played a part in the emotional abuse of residents," said the report.

There were complaints over the years of abuse or bullying, but these were not followed up consistently.

The report said staff who felt poorly equipped, unsupported by managers and undervalued by their employers, could feel "isolated and vulnerable, and may be resentful and angry".

An additional article from the Herald on the matter :

The impact on the children who were abused at Kerelaw was devastating’

LUCY ADAMS, Chief Reporter May 12 2009

Former pupils talked of their arms being twisted behind their backs, pain being inflicted by staff and emotional abuse including taunts about their background.

Here was a residential school and secure unit where children were sent to protect themselves and others, a place they should have been safe. Instead the independent inquiry into Kerelaw paints a damning and detailed picture of "common assaults", "emotional abuse", neglect and poor practice.

Following on from Glasgow City Council's own three-year inquiry into what went wrong at the Stevenston, Ayrshire unit and coverage of the various court cases and employment tribunals, there is a danger of the findings seeming too familiar.

Phrases such as poor leadership and training may sound clinical but should not detract from the all too human horror meted out on the children there.

The independent report by Eddie Frizzell concludes most importantly that abuse did take place and that steps must be taken to ensure such mistakes are not repeated.

The result of poor leadership and years of failings is "broken people" many of whom will require support for years to come.

"We saw what can happen when staff lack direction, when leadership is inadequate, when appropriate values are not upheld, and when poor attitudes are not challenged," wrote Mr Frizzell. "We saw the impact of relative neglect of an institution by senior managers 30 miles away preoccupied with reorganisation, budgets, high-level policies and internal disputes.

"The impact on the children who were abused at Kerelaw was devastating."


Poor supervision over a number of years by both Glasgow City Council and senior staff at Kerelaw is given special emphasis in the report as a key failing.

Various different organisations were responsible for inspecting Kerelaw from 1996 onwards and "numerous" concerns were raised, but there was little evidence of sustained action to address these.

"Staffing levels, supervision, training, the fabric of the buildings, privacy and dignity of young people and the complaints procedure, were all the subject of criticism," it stated.

And Glasgow City Council did not give Kerelaw the attention it needed or deserved, said the report. Mr Frizzell said yesterday that the school slipped off the "radar" and was not regularly visited.

"Overall, there was a significant failure in leadership and management that led to the relative neglect of Kerelaw and, as a consequence, the dual abandonment of those who lived and worked there."

The inquiry makes clear that Kerelaw was not treated as a high priority and that management was delegated inappropriately. Senior staff and the city council are also criticised for having "no robust performance management system, and poor staff supervision".


The report makes clear that not all staff were involved in abuse and indeed many of the children said their experience of Kerelaw was positive. Mr Frizzell said yesterday that it is important to remember that, "not everybody got abused all of the time".

The abuse at the school was he said, "largely physical" and covered a range of staff who did not realise or often "didn't care" they were carrying out abuse.

He also raised questions over a claim in the previous report by Glasgow City Council that 40 staff members were involved in abuse.

"We didn't find that was substantiated," he said. "By Glasgow's own admission they only proceeded in disciplinary measures against 29 members of staff - so if they only proceeded against 29, how can they say that definitely 40 were involved."

The implication by the council that the abuse was widely known about by staff who did not act was also branded "unfair" by the former civil servant.

"There were people who spoke up and it was staff speaking up finally that brought it all out," he said.

Ultimately some 14 staff were dismissed. Two of the dismissals were deemed unfair by Appeals Tribunals, and the council withdrew its defence in another two.


Mr Frizzell made clear that poor leadership allowed a "macho" culture with an emphasis on control rather than care, to go unchecked. Among the staff there were "factions and cliques".

He continued: "The circumstances that allowed abuse to happen comprised a complex mix of cultural factors, including an over-emphasis on control."

There were complaints of abuse or bullying, but these were not followed up.


The inquiry suggests that the main reasons for this culture were the lack of a consistent shared vision for Kerelaw to which learning and development should have been linked and a lack of proper induction training for staff.

"There was also a resistance by some individuals to learning new approaches, stemming from a belief that no-one outside understood their task," the report said.

Restraint methods

One method of restraint, known as "therapeutic crisis intervention" (TCI) was adopted in 1996 by Strathclyde Regional Council and was meant to calm or avert critical and violent situations.

However, the inquiry team found that, "some staff used physical intervention as a first rather than a last resort - and there was also emotional abuse".

"The language of failure and dumping'- ridicule about family backgrounds, teasing and bullying seem all to have played a part in the emotional abuse of residents," said the report.

"How to restrain, as opposed to how to avoid having to restrain, appears to have been over-emphasised. Insufficient attention was paid to refresher training. This meant an over-emphasis on physical control."

Counter claims

In response to the suggestion that former residents at the school had made allegations of abuse for the sake of financial compensation, Mr Frizzell said: "The claim by some that young people were driven to make allegations by the lure of compensation is not borne out by the evidence. Fewer than a fifth of those who were interviewed by internal investigators had by March 2009 made compensation claims. The statistics suggest that the convictions of the teacher and the unit manager following their Court cases in 2006 precipitated compensation claims."

In 2006, Matthew George, 56, an art teacher, was jailed for 10 years at the High Court in Edinburgh for a "horrifying catalogue" of 18 offences connected to Kerelaw abuse.

John Muldoon, 53, a care worker, was sentenced to two-and-a half years for four offences.

Ultimately what is clear from the report is that children's experiences of Kerelaw varied, but abuse did take place and in future proper checks and measures and stronger leadership need to ensure it is not repeated.

Other scandals
The latest children's unit to become the centre of abuse allegations is Larchgrove Remand Home in the east end of Glasgow, although allegations have been made there in the past. Former residents have alleged sexual and physical abuse in the 1970s.

Once cherished by the public and supported by the great and good as a haven for neglected or orphaned children, Quarriers has faced accusations of sexual and physical abuse since the 1930s.

The most prominent, from the 1960s, emerged in a series of trials of house fathers including John Porteous, who was nicknamed "Beast of the Belltower".

In 2003 Michael Murphy, 69, formerly known as Brother Benedict, a monk with the de la Salle order who worked as a welfare officer in the school, was jailed for two years on 10 charges of physical abuse during the 1960s, including torturing pupils with an electric shock device, force-feeding them vomit and whipping them with knotted boot laces. James McKinstrey, 70, the school's night watchman, and Charles McKenna, 83, a former teacher, were each sentenced to two years for sexual offences.

Allegations of abuse at the homes run by the Congregation of the Poor Sisters of Nazareth began to emerge in 1997.

Hundreds of former residents have since claimed they were abused or humiliated as children.

Criminal injuries compensation payments have been awarded.

One nun, Sister Alphonso, 58, was admonished for abusing four children in her care.

In 1994, the Roman Catholic Church paid £42,000 compensation to a man who was sexually abused by two priests while at the seminary. The abuse began when the man was a 14-yearold trainee priest. Another case involved Father Desmond Lynagh, who abused young trainee priests. He was given therapy and continued as a priest. The college closed in 1986.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir

The conclusion (Independent Inquiry into Abuse at Kerelaw Residential School
and Secure Unit … led by Eddie Frizzell) that “abuse was prevalent in Kerelaw” must not be allowed to go unchallenged.

What did this abuse consist of? The inquiry is not clear on this other than stating that allegations of sexual abuse were rare. The major problem seems to revolve around the use of restraints.

The Glasgow City Council’s chosen method of dealing with conflict situations is Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) which allows (pain free) physical restraint as a last resort after other attempts at de-escalation have failed. This is admirable but the decision that non physical de-escalation has failed or is impossible is a subjective one. A worker in a crisis situation may opt for a physical course of action that an investigating officer considers precipitate under the last resort terms of TCI. This is simply a difference in judgement - the one formed in the heat of the crisis and the other formed at a desk after the event. Even so a precipitate physical action is a breach of TCI (a matter of training or discipline) but it is not of necessity abusive. The formula - precipitate physical action = inappropriate restraint = abuse - unfairly and illogically condemned many workers.
The restraint method used in Kerelaw required two restrainers, moving their bodies, legs and arms at the same time and in a coordinated manner within a period of some 16 seconds, acting in a synchronised way to subdue a young person. According to research (see Social Work Research Findings No. 21 Measuring Competence in Physical Restraint Skills in Residential Child Care by Lorna Bell and Cameron Stark) it was possible to make 44 errors during this manoeuvre and this was assuming the person being constrained was compliant! In real life, if the young person (and he could be a young man of 16) struggled, the method would lose its coherence and, with that, its efficacy probably resulting in pain or injury to the young person. Workers accepted the truth of this and readily admited to having participated in or seeing poorly executed restraints. This is by no means the same as admitting to abuse for a poorly executed restraint is not necessarily abuse.
In short a failure to follow TCI guidelines or engaging in a clumsy restraint may be a training/disciplinary matter but they are not by definition abuse. The Frizzell inquiry and others have not noted these distinctions and have failed to recognise the weaknesses of TCI leading to the erroneous conclusion that abuse was prevalent in Kerelaw.
John Murdoch (ex joint Branch Secretary Glasgow City Unison)