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During Care

What we have heard about experiences during care

When Care Goes Well

He was a father figure...he stood out...if it wasn't for him I'd be in jail.

Amidst the accounts of abuse and emotional neglect, a small number of people have come forward to talk about positive care experiences. These people have spoken about the care and attention that some members of staff gave them. They spoke of the importance of home-cooked meals, Christmas presents and the value of having adults celebrate their accomplishments. For these people, institutional care saved them from sometimes intolerable home circumstances. They described feeling cared for, safe, and part of a community or surrogate family.

Physical and Emotional Needs

The testimonies we heard distinguish between physical and emotional needs being met. In comparison to the family home where there might have been extreme poverty or neglect, physical needs such as food, clothing and cleanliness were generally met. However, sometimes food was used to control behaviour such that children could not take access to food for granted.

If you did not eat what was on your plate it would be mixed in with your next meal until everything was eaten...

Emotional needs were less frequently considered, and in many institutions we heard that there appeared to be little recognition of the need for children to feel loved or valued. Instead, people spoke of the importance of institutions valuing treasured objects such as teddies and protecting these for children and young people. Again, however, pocket money, sweet treats and gifts were frequently withheld. Adults described themselves as children, being unhappy much of the time.

[Staff] did not show any love - it was almost a pride of having that power.

Institutional Abuse

It was a systemic torture chamber...a systemic abuse...a way of life all the time, morning and night.

Physical, sexual and emotional abuse was typically described as happening frequently. For some, abuse was part of a regime of punishment and control that was at the core of the institution in which they lived. We have heard about individual abusers perpetrating systematic and hidden abuse or of whole staff teams abusing or colluding with abuse. People wanted to make sense of the abuse and reflected that untrained care staff were introduced to, and became part of, a culture of bullying and abuse in some institutions.

Testimonies described dehumanising and cruel treatment that people felt were designed to humiliate and degrade them. Examples included children being forced to carry soiled linen, having their hair cut off and of visits being cancelled at the last minute.

You can read more of what we have heard about experiences during care in our full report.

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