Scottish Borders Council set to spend £150,000 on child protection following abuse allegations

Scottish Borders council is set to spend £150,000 improving child protection procedures Credit: ITV

Scottish Borders council is set to spend £150,000 improving child protection procedures, following a report that criticised its handling of abuse allegations.

Last year, former teacher Linda McCall was found guilty of physically assaulting five vulnerable children.

An independent inquiry, carried out by Andrew Webster QC, found the local authority was too slow to act when concerns were initially raised.

At a meeting in Newtown St Boswells this morning, councillors agreed on an action plan drawn up by the council's chief executive Netta Meadows in response to that damning report produced by Andrew Webster QC a few weeks ago.

It laid out 10 recommendations for change which included improving child protection training, reviewing child protection and disciplinary procedures, and improving communication with parents.

The action plan has laid out a body of work that the council now intends to carry out to rectify this and a review group will be set up to drive forward the changes being made.

It will meet on a fortnightly basis and report to the council every month.

One of the main tasks cited is to improve child protection training for council staff.

The action plan read: "Across the Council training on child protection is already mandatory, but clearly the findings of the Inquiry highlight that there is more work to do to instil an understanding of the prime importance of the welfare of children. The action plan aims to achieve that greater understanding."

Part of that will involve reinforcing how important it is that employees report any concerns they have and there will be work done to make sure they know exactly how and where to do this.

It read: "These recommendations cannot be implemented without consideration of the wider issues that surround why staff did not feel they could report their concerns into the organisation. All staff need to feel supported and empowered in voicing any concerns, and there must be clear pathways and processes in place for them to do so."

The local authority will also seek to improve its communication with parents in order to "empower families" and to "ensure that the welfare of children is of paramount consideration".

It’s planning to work with parents to co-produce new guidelines on this.

The council has allocated £150,000 to delivering this action plan and Council leader Mark Rowley said it’s worth every penny.

He said: "This is a significant cost to the council, but this is what we should be spending our money on. It’s worth every penny to get this absolutely right, you can't put a price on child protection.”

Councillors were overwhelmingly in support of the action plan and agreed to take it forward.

One of the parents whose child was abused by former teacher Linda McCall said that she’s glad the council is now making changes, but that the hurt and anger she feels about how long this has all taken to happen will never go away.

She said: "My child is still traumatised by what happened to him five years ago. Every now and then he has episodes where he’s screaming and crying and doesn’t want to go to school - there’s nothing wrong with his current teachers or school - but it’s because he’s having flashbacks"

She said that she and the other parents whose children were caught up in this scandal want to be involved in the work the council is doing, and hope they can be.

She said: "I want to believe they’ll put things right, but I don’t have faith. We have been met with so many brick walls over the years that the council has to do a lot to regain our trust.

"I think it’s vital we’re involved in the work they’re doing because we have first-hand experience of what happens when this goes wrong."