Victim welcomes child abuse inquiry

Abuse victim Cheryl Boyall
Abuse victim Cheryl Boyall
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A woman who still has nightmares about the years she spent at a children’s home in South Holland says she is ready to help a new government panel’s inquiry into historical child abuse.

Cheryl Boyall (56) asked the Spalding Guardian for help in September because she wanted to “face the demons” that haunted her and find out what happened to the “uncle and auntie” who ran the home where she was taken into care in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

But a formal request for information by Cheryl to Lincolnshire County Council under the Data Protection Act only revealed details of the period she suffered a mental breakdown “because no-one believed me”.

She said: “I was about eight when I was taken into care. We had to call the couple who ran the home ‘auntie’ and ‘uncle’. They called us the devil’s children and said we were there because our parents did not want us.

“I suffered mental and physical abuse. Auntie would bathe me down below with a flannel and ask ‘can you feel that?’. I knew it was wrong.

“I wanted her to stop.

They used to get us up in the middle of the night to do fire drills and make us walk down a spiral staircase outside in our nighties, leave us standing outside in the cold.

“We were all afraid of being put in the punishment room. It was like a prison cell with bars at the window.

“If anyone wet the bed they would rub their noses in it like a dog.

“I tried to run away but was found and taken back. Auntie and uncle would put their arms around me and in front of the police say ‘we wouldn’t hurt you, we love you’.

“No-one believed me. After I left the home I couldn’t get the nightmares out of my head and eventually I had a nervous breakdown.

“I don’t hate the authorities for not believing me – they didn’t know what was going on.”

Cheryl has never been able to hold down a job and now lives alone in Kirton. But the turning point began following the high profile celebrity sex abuse court cases.

She said: “People like me who had suffered abuse but stayed silent were being taken seriously. My father died earlier this year and I just felt it was time I got my life back.

“I completely support the new government panel and am ready to talk to it if I can help.

“If I can stop another child going through what I did then something good will have come out of this.”

Last week, Home Secretary Theresa May sent a message to abuse victims, saying: “I know you have experienced terrible things. I know we cannot imagine what that must be like.

“And I know that, perhaps because of the identity of your abusers or the way you were treated when you needed help, many of you have lost trust in the authorities.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do something that is hugely important. Together we can expose what has gone wrong in the past, we can prevent it.”

She had apologised to them because the inquiry into historical child abuse has no chairman, following two resignations.

Fiona Woolf resigned on Friday, saying victims did not have confidence in her.

She had faced pressure to quit over her social links to ex-Home Secretary Lord Brittan, whose handling of abuse claims in the 1980s has been questioned.

Predecessor Baroness Butler-Sloss resigned four months ago, also over her links with establishment figures.

The inquiry will, however, continue its work while a new chairman is sought.

‘YOUNG PEOPLE OUR PRIORITY’

The Spalding Guardian asked Lincolnshire County Council about guidelines in place to prevent incidents of child abuse in care homes today.

A spokesman said: “We have strong safeguarding procedures in place for our homes. All care staff are appropriately trained in safeguarding children from abuse and sexual exploitation.

“All young people have an allocated social worker who visits on a regular basis and all statutory meetings are held within timescales.

“All young people are encouraged to build positive relationships with the care staff within their children’s home.

“Standards in residential care are monitored through a number of processes, perhaps the most important being Ofsted. Every home is inspected twice a year through unannounced inspections.”

In preparation for inspection, inspectors will look at the information that Ofsted already holds about the service which includes:

* previous inspection reports

* concerns and complaints received

* notifications of significant events received

* Regulation 33 reports received

* any current or recent enforcement activity.

Inspection activities will include:

* listening and talking to children and young people

* observing staff interactions with childrenand young people

* observation of key activities such as handovers of informationbetween staff

* gathering views from partners and stakeholders such as parents, social workers and teachers

“All young people have access to an Independent Advocate who visits the home monthly. The advocate meets with the young people on both an individual basis and as a group. Any concerns raised by the young people are reported following the county council’s reporting procedures.

“Within each of the homes, telephone numbers for Childline, NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service) and the Children’s Commissioners Office are clearly displayed.

“All homes are visited monthly by an Independent Officer who meets with all young people and provides a detailed report on any concerns with regard to the young people.

“Lincolnshire County Council also ensures that it appoints a county councillor to visit each home on a quarterly basis.

“A report is produced following this visit with a clear action plan. This report along with the Ofsted Inspection Report are discussed at the Corporate Parenting Panel on a regular basis.”