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

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Foreword

Children are the most valuable and yet the most vulnerable group in society.

It is our responsibility to respect them, to care for them, to protect them, to acknowledge and respond to their needs and rights.

Abuse of children - however it is defined, whenever it occurs, whoever is responsible - must not be tolerated. It is self-indulgence in its ugliest form. When it occurs where children are placed for protection, it is even more despicable.

Those who experienced abuse in the past need to be heard; they need to know that society supports them in speaking out and that their experiences, however distressing, are recognised and addressed.

We all have a need and a right to know about our past, our childhood, our family circumstances, our home - wherever or whatever that was for each of us. Our sense of identity is based on this knowledge.

There are many challenges to finding out about our past and the process is even more daunting when those past experiences were bad. The reaction to our search can be cynical rather than constructive; the need to know can be viewed with insensitivity rather than with respect. The past is sometimes dismissed as over and done with: yet another unacceptable response.

As a society we need to learn from the past, to recognise the good and to understand how to prevent the bad. Learning from our mistakes is a sign of maturity, an indication that we want to do better and, in the context of this review, to do so for all who were or are children in the care of the state.

Abuse of children occurs throughout the world; it is a concern in many countries. It is a focus of the work of the United Nations. We can learn much from the experiences of other countries about how to identify abuse, how to respond to those who have been abused and how to prevent abuse. And we should do so now.

An apology, an essential part of any response to mistakes or failure, is but the beginning, not the end, of the process of addressing wrongs. The process needs to involve us all as we strive to meet the needs and entitlements of those whose cries for help were ignored in the past.

There can be no guarantee that abuse will never happen again - but we have a responsibility to do everything in our power to prevent it. This review is a contribution to meeting that objective.