Recruiting and retaining staff was a “huge challenge” for some residential care establishments in the past, an academic has told a child abuse probe.
The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry heard how the remote location of some homes and a requirement for live-in workers contributed to staff turnover being an issue for three providers currently under the spotlight at the hearings.
The inquiry also heard how adverts for staff, particularly from the 1930s to the early 1960s, would seek people able to discipline children and welcomed would-be recruits from a military background.
Since October, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) has been conducting a case study looking into the care given to those living in non-religious and voluntary institutions run by Quarriers, Barnardo’s and Aberlour.
Lynn Abrams, a professor of modern history at the University of Glasgow, carried out a review for the SCAI, looking at various systems in place at the institutions, for example around record keeping, training, qualifications and after-care.
She gave evidence on her draft report – based on archive research covering 1930 to 1990 – at the hearing in Edinburgh on Tuesday.
Prof Abrams told the probe: “All the providers were challenged throughout the period in question in recruitment, particularly in the early part of the period up to the 1960s.
“Minutes from the providers provide evidence that they are constantly recruiting and are constantly concerned about staff recruitment.”
She said staff turnover was “generally a challenge”, particularly for Quarriers and Aberlour because of their locations.
The historian added: “Aberlour in particular because it’s in quite a remote location and they required for most staff to be live-in staff and that was a huge challenge for them, I think.”
The desire, particularly at Quarriers and Aberlour, for Christian recruits and at Quarriers for married couples to join the team added to the recruitment pressures, the hearing was told.
The SCAI heard how Prof Abrams and a colleague looked at a range of records for their review, including from government, local authorities, newspaper adverts and documents handed over by the organisations themselves.
The witness told how the “ability to exercise discipline” was sought in the majority of job adverts from the institutions, up to the 1950s and early 1960s.
Until the 1960s and 1970s, qualifications were not necessarily required or desired, the inquiry was told, with the possible exception of nursery nurses and matrons who could obtain qualifications.
“Really up until the 60s and 70s, they’re not asking for qualifications and for the most part these qualifications would not have been available,” Prof Abrams said.
She added some adverts said people with military backgrounds were seen as being suitable for posts, particularly in the post-war 1940s and 1950s.
The archive research uncovered no evidence of formal induction processes for new staff at any of the institutions, the inquiry heard.
“Training in general was not a requirement for staff in the early period, particularly because there was not a huge amount of training on offer, particularly external training,” Prof Abrams added.
She told the inquiry the records supplied by Barnardo’s were generally better and of a higher quality than those from the other two providers.
The inquiry was told Prof Abrams did not find much evidence in records of complaints made by children at the establishments.
“That’s not to say they aren’t there or didn’t happen,” the witness added.
On Quarriers, she said: “There were a couple of cases we identified in the Quarriers case files of children making complaints or disclosures about mistreatment.
“The evidence suggested to us that in one case the child’s allegations weren’t believed. In the other case I think the child was moved.”
The inquiry, before Lady Smith, continues on Wednesday.