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8 October 2000 / The Independent
More than 10,000 children were abused in children's homes across the country during the 1970s and 1980s, according to a new book on the scandals published this week.
This estimate, said to be conservative, is based on information obtained from police forces and social services departments around the country by Christian Wolmar, author of Forgotten Children: the Secret Abuse Scandal in Children's Homes.
More than 500 homes including many belonging to well-known charities such as Barnardo's and the NCH have been the subject of investigation but most closed long ago. Today there are fewer than 8,000 children in homes, a fifth of the total in the mid-1970s.
The Association of Chief Police Officers collected information from 22 of Britain's 49 police force areas and found that by the summer of 1999, there had been allegations of abuse from 2,149 people, most of them male.
As 32 forces reported that investigations were still taking place during 1999, this figure is likely to increase.
Because most victims are reluctant to come forward, this is a gross underestimate of the scale of the problem, says the book. The national database of alleged perpetrators, created last year, currently has 1,500 names and is expected to have more than 2,000 by 2003.
By 1 April this year, figures supplied to the author showed that compensation claims to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority had been made by 365 former residents of children's homes, of which 51 have been accepted, 42 rejected, with the rest still pending.
The fact that most of the victims are male is in sharp contrast to the pattern of abuse within families where, according to various surveys, between 80 per cent and 95 per cent is against girls.
The biggest investigation is Operation Care on Merseyside where, by this summer, more than 800 complaints, concerning abuse in 84 care homes against 350 alleged perpetrators, had been received. There had been 76 arrests and 23 convictions with jail sentences totalling 105 years.