Safeguards now in place, says council

Social services bosses last night moved to reassure the public that safeguards were now in place to prevent a recurrence of the abuse at Banham Marshalls College.

Social services bosses last night moved to reassure the public that safeguards were now in place to prevent a recurrence of the abuse at Banham Marshalls College.

Norfolk County Council's role in the 1970s and 1980s was limited but in recent years it has taken over inspection duties. There are currently no concerns about the safety of pupils at the school which is under new management.

At the height of the offences the then Department for Education and Skills (DfES) had the legal authority to with-draw approval for the school. However, it failed to detect any signs of abuse.

Education social workers visited Norfolk pupils on an annual basis, usually at the school. Educational psychologists would also visit the school to monitor each Norfolk pupil's educational progress and the suitability of the placement.

Lisa Christensen, Norfolk County Council's director of children's services, said an internal review had been launched and would be completed now that the final charges had been dropped.

She said: “Violent and cruel behaviour against children is never acceptable or defensible and is made even worse when it is handed out by people specifically entrusted by society with the daily care and welfare of other people's children.

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“I would like to pay tribute today to the former pupils who have helped to finally bring the defendants to justice - these convictions send out a powerful message to victims everywhere, that it is never too late to speak out. We have set up an independent helpline today for former pupils and their parents who may want to talk to someone about their time at the school.

“These hearings justify the actions of Norfolk County Council to remove our children from the school in May 2003 and to notify the then DfES of our concerns. We took action after we were alerted by the National Care Standards Commission to their serious concerns, and while the joint police and Children's Services investigation was still in its early stages.

“From the outset, we worked closely with Norfolk police whilst also working very hard to engage with the college. We liaised closely with the then National Care Standards Commission and the then DfES, and tried our hardest to keep parents informed about a rapidly changing situation.

“Our primary concern has always been to protect children and that is why we took the unparalleled decision to remove Norfolk's children from the school. We were the first local authority to take this action - and we did so in the face of considerable criticism from parents, who were understandably concerned.

“I am certain that the effectiveness of both the police and child protection investigations helped secure the convictions of these men. I would like to reassure people that the situation today is much changed from the 1970s and '80s - there are now much more robust child protection procedures in place and a clear inspection regime is in operation.

“I would like to thank colleagues in the Commission for Social Care Inspection and Norfolk police in particular for their hard work with us on this case, which I believe demonstrates a positive example of effective inter-agency working.

“These have been trying times for everyone involved, especially the families of those children and young people who were removed from the college. It was a very uncertain situation that went on for many months, but one thing never changed - our belief that we always had to put the safety and well-being of children first.”

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