A council has admitted failings at a care home where a worker sexually abused young boys.
Victims of Brian Newman came forward following the Jimmy Saville scandal and a report has revealed numerous problems at the Woodhead Road children’s unit, where the abuse took place between 1990 and 1996.
The former care home worker was jailed in 2015 after being found guilty of a six-year campaign of indecency and sexual assault against six boys at the South Ayrshire home during the 1990s.
An investigation by the South Ayrshire Chief Officers’ Group for Public Protection found that, although Newman’s abuse was reported and investigated, the children’s concerns “were not fully heard”.
Other residents at the care home said they did not report the exploitation at the time for fear they would not be believed.
Newman, 58, from Kilmarnock, was convicted of 10 charges of indecency and sexual assault against six boys at the home.
Kim Leslie, an abuse lawyer at Digby Brown Solicitors, said: “We respect the acknowledgement by South Ayrshire Council that there were failings but it is arguably too little, too late for our clients.
“As the report found, incidents of abuse and concerns were reported years ago but were not investigated properly, if at all.
“We represent individuals whose lives have been irreversibly changed after suffering at the hands of Brian Newman.
“Personal injury actions for damages are now under way on the grounds that South Ayrshire Council is vicariously liable for the abuse carried out by their former caretaker which I hope provides the answers and closure his victims deserve.”
The review, carried out through the independent South Ayrshire Child Protection Committee, found “there were missed opportunities to deal with reports of abuse made by a former resident in 2007”.
Although Newman’s behaviour was reported by some children at the time, “any action taken did not recognise the significance of these concerns”, according to the report.
South Ayrshire Council said the way in which young people are looked after and consulted about their care has changed significantly since the 1990s, as have the procedures for vetting those who work with children.
The chairman of the South Ayrshire Child Protection Committee, Professor Paul Martin, said: “The protection and care of our children and young people is one of our most important responsibilities and one that we take very seriously indeed in South Ayrshire.
“While there have been significant changes to modern child protection practices and procedures in the two decades since this abuse took place – providing a better framework overall for the protection of children – the review findings show that agencies can, and must, continue to do better to provide our young people with the best care possible.
“While a significant amount of work has already been undertaken by the council, Health and Social Care Partnership and Police Scotland, I will be monitoring further progress closely to ensure that we achieve this and deliver the best possible outcomes for children and young people across South Ayrshire.”
Paula Godfrey, South Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership’s head of children’s health, care and justice, said: “This report makes it clear that there were shortcomings in how staff responded to concerns raised by young people at Woodhead Road Children’s Unit in the 1990s and for that we are truly sorry.
“Children’s houses should be a place of safety and a place where children and young people are cared for, nurtured and looked after – and that was not the case for those abused by the individual who committed these appalling crimes and breached the trust placed in him to look after young people.
“We know that the provision of care and the way we support vulnerable children and young people has been transformed over the past 20 years, however, we fully accept the findings of the review and have taken positive steps to address the improvement areas highlighted.
“Our services and staff follow the national Child Protection Guidance at all times – we have implemented all relevant statutory and regulatory requirements; we work to keep staff skills, knowledge and expertise up-to-date through extensive training and development; we regularly consult with our young people to ensure our services meet their needs; we work closely with child protection partners to share best practice, and there are robust reporting and scrutiny processes in place to monitor performance.
“I am determined that we will continue to do everything we can to ensure young people in our care are treated with respect and dignity, get brought up in a loving and nurturing environment, enjoy the same opportunities as other young people and are supported to succeed in whatever they do.”