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Children: Abuse

Volume 493: debated on Tuesday 2 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what correspondence he has had with (a) the Church of England, (b) Kent police and (c) Kent County Council on allegations of abuse at Kendall House; what discussions he has had with Ministerial colleagues on the matter; and if he will make a statement; (271067)

(2) whether allegations of child abuse at Kendall House have been investigated by his Department and its predecessors on any occasion;

(3) what steps he has taken following the recent allegations of child abuse at Kendall House.

The Department takes any allegations of abuse very seriously indeed. The Government commissioned two major reviews into historical abuse—Sir William Utting’s report ‘People Like Us’ (1997) and Sir Ronald Waterhouse’s report ‘Lost in Care’ (2000). Kendall House closed in the 1980s, but since then tighter controls have been put in place which address all the issues raised by the allegations about Kendall House. The Government changed the regulatory framework and brought in the Care Standards Act 2000, which focuses on safeguarding children and promoting their welfare.

Providers and managers of children’s homes must now be registered with Ofsted and comply with the Children’s Homes Regulations 2001 and National Minimum Standards. These regulations are much more extensive than those which applied in the mid 80s and include specific standards on the control and issuing of medicines.

There is no evidence that the allegations made about inappropriate use of drugs at Kendall House were a widespread problem. Kendall House was inspected prior to the homes closure and the use of drugs in the home was part of that inspection. Allegations about Kendall House were also subject to investigation by the police and local government ombudsmen in 1994.

The Secretary of State has had no representations from the Church of England, Kent police or Kent county council on Kendall House. The Secretary of State wrote on 30 April to the Secretary of State for Health about this matter. The Secretary of State has also asked the Permanent Secretary to look into this matter and on his advice has concluded that, on balance there is not sufficient justification for a further inquiry on public interest grounds at this point.