Historical Abuse Systemic Review: Residential Schools and Children's Homes in Scotland 1950 to 1995

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Chapter 4: Compliance, Monitoring and Inspection

"Against the background of the abuse suffered by children up the age of 16 in residential schools and children's homes in Scotland over the period from 1950 to 1995 the Independent Expert is instructed ... to present a report ... with the following objectives:

(2) to identify, and review the adequacy of any systems, whether at national, local or organisational level , intended to ensure compliance with those requirements and with any proscribed procedures and standards from time to time including systems of monitoring and inspection;

(3) to review the practical operation and effectiveness of such systems."

Introduction

Chapter 2, which sets out the regulatory framework for the review period, contains the details of the law's requirements for monitoring and inspection in residential schools and children's homes across the review period. In this chapter I include:

  • an overview of monitoring and inspection
  • my observations on the legal requirements for monitoring and inspection
  • the challenges which the review faced in identifying the practice of monitoring and inspection and assessing its effectiveness
  • my conclusions and recommendations.

This chapter has the following sections:

1. What do compliance, monitoring and inspection mean?
2. What was to be monitored and inspected?
3. What forms of monitoring and inspection were required?
4. With what frequency were monitoring and inspection to take place?
5. What other opportunities were there for monitoring the welfare and safety of children in residential schools and children's homes?
6. How adequate were the legal provisions?
7. How were monitoring and inspection done in practice? The challenges of finding evidence.
8. How effective were monitoring and inspection? The challenges of determining effectiveness.
9. Conclusions and recommendations.

1. What do compliance, monitoring and inspection mean?

These terms aren't defined in the legislation. However, throughout the legislation are legal provisions that assign responsibility for actions that fall within the ambit of what I understand to be monitoring and inspection. These include requirements for visiting, recording information about and inspecting residential schools and children's homes.

The legislation specifies, in varying degrees of detail, what monitoring and inspection should focus on. This indicates the government's concern with, and approach to, making sure that schools and homes complied with the law.

For the purposes of this review, I've defined compliance, monitoring and inspection as follows:

Compliance is the act of adhering, and demonstrating adherence, to laws. Monitoring and inspection are the means by which compliance is observed, assessed and reported on.

Monitoring is any means specified within the legislation by which information is gathered to confirm that residential schools and children's homes are complying with regulations and standards, however defined. The information gathered would include details about the children, staffing and premises in individual schools and homes, and how these are organised and managed. Monitoring should focus on - the child, the residential establishment, the administering authority, the government department, and ultimately, should help to secure the welfare, needs and rights of the child.

Inspection is the formal process of:

  • seeing whether the needs of children are being met;
  • examining residential schools and children's homes to find out how they comply with regulations;
  • assessing standards; and
  • evaluating the quality and appropriateness of outcomes - that is, what happens to children during and as a result of their stay there - to promote improvement in the children's welfare, safety and educational attainment

Monitoring and inspection are inter-related. In one view, inspection is one of a range of monitoring activities, part of a continuum of monitoring; in another, in my experience, it can often be viewed by those whose establishment is being inspected as a separate form of external evaluation rather than a periodic part of the monitoring process.

2. What was to be monitored and inspected?

In children's homes, the health, wellbeing, behaviour and the progress of the children in their education were to be monitored and inspected (1947 Act, 1959 Regulations). These were central to monitoring in children's homes throughout the review period to 1987. The welfare, development and rehabilitation of the children were at the heart of monitoring and inspection in approved schools (1937 Act). Broadly similar requirements continued throughout much of the review period for approved, later List D schools.

In addition, and, presumably, as an indication of what the government saw as contributing to the children's welfare and safety, other aspects of schools and children's homes were to be monitored including:

In an approved school:

  • the provision of clothes and maintenance of the children (1937 Act)
  • the maintenance of the premises (1933 Regulations)
  • the provision of separate bedrooms (1961 Rules)
  • diet (1961 Rules)
  • fire precautions (1933 Regulations)
  • the daily routine and suitability of the education provided (1933 Regulations; 1961 Rules)
  • health, including dental health (1933 Regulations)
  • punishment and discipline, including corporal punishment (1933 Regulations; 1961 Rules)

In a children's home:

  • the provision of separate bedrooms (1959 regulations)
  • fire precautions (1959 Regulations)
  • diet (1959 Regulations)
  • health, including dental health (1959 Regulations)
  • punishment and discipline, including corporal punishment (1959 Regulations)
  • where provided on site, education provided (1959 Regulations)
  • health and safety (1987 Regulations)

For a remand home or other types of residential school, similar aspects of provision were identified for monitoring.

In addition to these providing a focus for monitoring and inspection, the Secretary of State had powers and duties which, in exercising them, would have required monitoring and inspection activities to enable him to make decisions. For example, the Secretary of State could serve notice on a local authority not to use a home for the placement of children if the property was unsuitable. He could also give instructions to the managers if the management posed a danger to the children placed there. Such decisions would have had to be based on information he received from monitoring and inspection.

3. What forms of monitoring and inspection were required

Monitoring and inspection activities provided for by the law included the following:

In a children's home:

(a) Visits

  • visits by inspectors approved of by SED(1948 Act);
  • visits by medical officers (1959 Regulations);
  • visits by children's officers of the local authority and local authority members (1947 Rules)
  • visits from 1959 by an 'authorised visitor' from the administering authority - local or voluntary and
  • visits from parents and guardians (1959 Regulations)

(b) Records

  • a log book had to be kept in which visits, punishments and other information had to be recorded (1959 Regulations)
  • other records relating to individual children, staff and accommodation had to be maintained and information sent to the administering authority and as required, to SED or the Secretary of State. (1959 Regulations)

In an approved school:

(a) Visits

  • visits by an SED inspector or any appointed officer (1937 Act);
  • visits by managers, the medical officer, a dentist (1933 Regulations);
  • interviews with an inspector (1961 Rules);
  • visits by parents, guardians, relatives or friends (1937 Act)

(b) Records

  • a log book had to be kept (1933 Regulations);
  • other records relating to individual children had to be maintained and information made available for inspection and, as required, forwarded to the SED or Secretary of State (1933 Regulations).

4. With what frequency were monitoring and inspection to take place?

Detailed information about the frequency of monitoring and inspection is contained in Chapter 2. Here are some examples.

In children's homes:

  • a local authority officer was to visit at least once every six months (1947 Rules);
  • members of the authority were to visit at least once a year (1947 Rules);
  • an authorised visitor was to visit monthly (1959 Regulations);
  • the medical officer was to examine every child yearly and visit the institution regularly (1959 Regulations); and
  • an officer of the care authority was to visit every three months (1987 Regulations).

Establishments had to be open to inspection at all times (1948 Act) but no reference is made in the legislation to the frequency of inspectors' visits.

Visits by parents and guardians were also allowed for (1959 Regulations) but, again, no reference is made to the frequency of the visits.

In approved schools:

  • a manager was to visit periodically (1933 Regulations)
  • a manager was to visit every month (1961 Rules)
  • the medical officer was to examine each child every three months and visit the school weekly (1961 Rules)
  • the dentist was to examine each child yearly (1933 Regulations) and the every six months (1961 Rules)

The school had to be open at all times for inspection by His majesty's Inspectors of Schools (1937) but no reference is made to the frequency of these visits.

Visits by parents, relatives, guardians and friends were permitted but no reference is made in the legislation to the frequency of these visits.

5. What other opportunities were there for monitoring the welfare and safety of children in residential schools and children's homes?

In addition to contact with visitors, administering authority officers, medical officers and government inspectors, children in residential establishments may have needed the services of others from time to time - educational psychologists, psychiatrists, GPs, social workers, nurses, police officers, clergy.

When this was the case, these professionals should have been in a position to observe and, as necessary, raise concerns about certain individual children or their circumstances with the Headmaster, Headmistress or person in charge of the institution, and with managers and external management authorities.

6. How adequate were the legal provisions?

As indicated in Chapters 2 and 3, the law provided for a range of monitoring and inspection in residential schools and children's homes throughout the review period. Some had clear focus and purpose, others were undefined. They had potential to ensure the children's welfare and safety. How adequate they were depended on;

  • their scope - what they required to be monitored and inspected;
  • how they were implemented;
  • the management of monitoring and inspection; and
  • how the information they provided was used.

The legislation relating to monitoring and inspection was strengthened across the review period. But as noted in the previous chapter, it did not provide for -

Agreed national standards for care: This meant that the focus of what those involved in monitoring and inspection observed and the consistency of the assessments they made were subject to variation. And this weakened the value of their findings.

A statement of purpose or a specification for visits by managers and authorised visitors: Too much was left to the interpretation of those carrying out the monitoring and inspection practice. The lack of definition of the purpose of visits may have failed to emphasise the value and importance they had in monitoring and inspecting the children's welfare and safety.

Local authority residential establishments to be registered before 1987: This was a significant gap in ensuring comparable standards of service across all residential establishments. It lessened the obligation on these institutions to be subject to regular monitoring and inspection visits and may have left them less closely supervised, thereby increasing the risk that abuse could go undetected.

Public accountability: Inspection at government level wasn't accountable to parents and the wider public until the 1980s when reports had to be published. Publication was intended to enable parents and guardians to challenge the quality and standards of residential schools.

Independent monitoring and inspection: The law's requirements for monitoring and inspection involved staff who were appointed by the administering authorities or by government departments. This meant there was the risk of lack of objectivity and less scrupulous monitoring and inspection.

Listening to children: For the first part of the period of the review, there was no specific requirement to talk and listen to children during monitoring and inspection - although the provision for inspectors to "inspect the place and the children therein" (The Children Act 1948) suggests that they were expected to do so. The 1961 Rules required the managers to give inspectors facilities for interviewing staff and pupils and children's hearings were introduced following the 1968 Act. But requirements to take account of children's views were not in place until the 1987 Regulations and it wasn't until the 1995 Act that children's views were sought, given credence and treated as an important consideration in ensuring their welfare and safety.

It is significant that the Skinner Report (1992), the Kent Report (1996), the Edinburgh Inquiry (1999) and the Fife Independent Inquiry (2002) all refer to the lack of attention paid to listening to children and taking them seriously.

Co-operation: There was no specific requirement for those involved in monitoring and inspection to co-operate, for example, in sharing expertise and information in the interests of ensuring the welfare and protection of children. The need for this multi - disciplinary working was recognized in the 1980s and advocated in the Skinner Report in 1992. But there were no legislative changes to require such working in the interests of the protection of children in residential establishments until the end of the review period.

7. How were monitoring and inspection done in practice? The challenges of finding evidence

My remit required me to review the practical operation and effectiveness of systems that were meant to make sure residential schools and children's homes complied with laws, rules, regulations, procedures and standards. It covered systems at national level and in local organisations. And it included systems of monitoring and inspection.

In approaching this my researcher and I sought information from:

  • local and voluntary authorities' records;
  • government records, including those relating to residential schools and children's homes, HMI, SWSG, and SWSI and including circulars and reports of inspections;
  • interviews with retired administrative and professional staff from local and voluntary authorities, government departments and agencies;
  • interviews with former residents and staff of residential schools and children's homes;
  • reports of public inquiries and reviews focused on residential childcare in Scotland;
  • the literature reviews commissioned for this review; and

As the literature reviews indicate, there is a lack of research into residential child care in Scotland that might shed light on practice on monitoring and inspection in the review period.

Chapter 5 and Appendix 3 of this report give information about the questionnaire sent by the review to all local authorities and to selected voluntary and religious organisations. For the period 1950 - 1969 all the local authorities who responded said they had no inspection records and many didn't know if they had specific policy and practice guidelines. For the period 1970 - 1985 they all said they had no inspection reports and none knew if they had specific policy or practice guidelines, for example for whistleblowing and inspection. For the period 1986 - 95 most said they had records, including inspection records and some said they had specific policy and practice guidelines. Similar responses were received from voluntary and religious organisations.

The difficulties the review faced in getting information from local and voluntary authority records and the large volume of potentially relevant records meant that it wasn't possible to investigate those sources to inform the review about practice in monitoring and inspection. That remains work to be done.

Government records for residential schools and children's homes contain minutes and some reports of inspectors' visits and inspections and it's possible to get from these an indication of the focus and structure of monitoring and inspection activities in the 1950s and 1960s. But the volume of these records, and the form of cataloguing used, meant that it was extremely difficult and time-consuming to identify which files would be most useful to the review.

Much more work would be required to establish comprehensively the focus and form of monitoring and inspection undertaken by government inspectors at that time. A detailed account of the challenges faced by the review in searching for information is given in Appendix 3.

In other government files, for example those relating to HMI and SWSG, the review was unable to find papers giving details of frameworks, standards or indicators relating to monitoring and inspection as a whole or in relation to residential schools and children's homes. In interviews with retired inspectors we learned that there was no policy to retain papers about such matters. As changes in practice in monitoring and inspection were introduced, they said, the out-dated papers were destroyed.

Some of the files examined by the review contain papers relating to policy, for example, on the use of corporal punishment in residential schools in the 1960s, and on the number of HMI and strategy for inspection of schools (of all kinds) in the 1970s. These are of value in shedding light on the kinds of factors which would have been influencing practice in monitoring and inspection during the review period, but the amount of work involved in searching through such files - and in the many others held in NAS - was not feasible within the resources and time span of the review.

We also found that there is no central collection of inspection reports for any of the government inspectorates that spans the period of the review. Current national inspection agencies such as SWIA and HMIe don't hold extensive records of the bodies that preceded them. And, while they were extremely helpful in suggesting possible sources of information and providing information where they could, they weren't in a position to provide comprehensive information about monitoring and inspection practice before they were set up and across the review period.

Retired government inspectors, whom we interviewed, said that when new inspectors were appointed - at least from the 1970s onwards - they received guidance materials on carrying out inspections including checklists of what to cover. These materials, they said, were up-dated regularly throughout the 1980s and 1990s, becoming ever more sophisticated and prescriptive. They also said that talking to children and young people was central to inspections of residential schools and children's homes across the review period and in the 1970s a practice known as day-profiling was used in inspection of schools generally. This involved following a child for a day during an inspection to observe what he or she experienced. In the 1980s child protection featured in inspections for the first time, and inspectors received guidance on what action to take if any issues were suspected. Following the Cleveland inquiry in 1987 and the Orkney inquiry, child protection became a central issue for inspectors and all received intensive training on the subject.

My conclusion is that there's a need for further research to find out more fully the nature, range and basis of monitoring and inspection in the past. That task would depend on action being taken to gather records, catalogue them and make them accessible for further research - which is one of this chapter's recommendations.

8. How effective were monitoring and inspection? The challenges of determining effectiveness

Assessing monitoring and inspection practice depends on the quality and quantity of information available or which can be collected about these. It's complex and difficult even when done in ideal circumstances, namely where:

  • the monitoring or inspection took place relatively recently and access to all kinds of related information is possible;
  • an agreed framework and process are in place for the monitoring or inspection activity to be assessed;
  • the process followed by visitors, officers or inspectors is informed by an agreed set of standards or indicators of performance, quality and ethos;
  • those undertaking the work are appropriately trained and experienced
  • there is an agreed form of recording information and evaluations and, in the case of inspectors, an agreed format for reporting to the stakeholders in the institution being inspected;
  • a record is made of any actions taken in response to the findings of monitoring and inspection and of any follow-up activity.

As noted earlier, there are no national standards or indicators of performance for residential child care across the review period. And there appears to be no specific information recorded about monitoring and inspection frameworks or the approaches adopted by visitors, officers from administering authorities and inspectors, both local authority and national.

Some may argue that detecting abuse is a valid indicator of effectiveness. But there is no way of knowing what abuse was prevented by monitoring and inspection or indeed of knowing what abuse may yet be disclosed. So assessing effectiveness based on detecting abuse is problematic.

The research undertaken by the review into records and through interviews indicates that with further work it would be possible to learn more about practice in monitoring and inspection in the past. For example, it would be possible to examine minutes of children's committees or social work committee meetings to see what, if anything, is recorded about reports of abusive practice or concerns about staff, and to identify the action taken in response.

Similarly, further work would allow information to be gathered about the focus of inspection reports, the extent to which they addressed the welfare and safety of the children and the results of any action taken in response to the inspection findings.

I believe that research in a selected sample of locations would provide valuable insights into practice in monitoring and inspection and the effectiveness of the methods used. For example, even with the limited research into government records that the review was able to undertake, a number of records were found which indicate that monitoring and inspection detected excessive punishment. There are papers dated 1967 which refer to two HMI looking for signs of irregular or excessive punishment. They detected failings in a few approved schools which led to the removal of one headmaster and the issue of a severe warning to another. The review also found a report of a survey of punishment in children's homes undertaken by the Child Care inspectorate in 1968. The survey was undertaken as part of a SED review of Discipline Punishment Policy and indicates the SED's use of such monitoring to inform policy.

But a challenge to be faced in any such work is the unknown, namely the extent to which all that was monitored and inspected was recorded and the extent to which the recorded information was accurate.

Positive results of monitoring and inspection in terms of children's protection from abuse must be set against instances where abuse took place and wasn't detected. The implication is that it requires more research to find out why monitoring and inspection were effective in detecting abuse in some places but not in others. And it has to be kept in mind that monitoring and inspection were expected to contribute to raising standards of care, education and health, as well as assessing the welfare and safety in residential schools and children's homes. They were about preventing rather than detecting abuse, which wasn't acknowledged until late in the review period as a serious problem that could be found in residential child care.

9. Conclusions and recommendations

I have learned through the work of the review that, despite the fact that many records are missing, a very large number of valuable records exist in a wide range of locations, and in varying states of organisation. These records could add to our understanding of practice in monitoring and inspection in residential childcare in the past and may well give insight into effectiveness. The records need to be assembled and catalogued and made available for research and investigation. As that process proceeds it would be possible to glean evidence of practice.

As indicated earlier, I have also learned that considerable numbers of people who lived and worked in children's residential services across the review period could and would be willing to talk about their experience and the practice of monitoring and inspection and other aspects of the organisation and management of residential child care as they knew it.

I recommend that:

  • all local authorities and voluntary organisations ensure that their records are identified, catalogued and stored properly; and
  • research is commissioned to gather information from people who lived and worked in children's residential services across the review period, as a contribution to our knowledge of practice in the past.

These recommendations are incorporated into the overall recommendations in Chapter 7.