The failure to hear the voices of abused children continues to haunt society today.
Some of Scotland’s most vulnerable youngsters suffered unspeakable cruelty which could have been stopped if appropriate systems, resources and cultures had been in place.
That much has been clear since the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry begun hearing evidence more than five years ago.
But, despite its duration, we should not become desensitised to the harrowing details that continue to emerge from this probe.
This week, the child abuse inquiry spotlight fell on foster care services in Dundee and Fife.
The inquiry heard details from high-profile cases, such as the 1960 death of two-year-old Alexina Kelbie.
And it was revealed that the toddler’s family had yet to receive any kind of apology for the tragedy, despite evidence that Alexina was attacked while in care.
Other cases involving anonymous victims were no less distressing.
One young girl was sexually abused after being allowed to remain with a foster family, despite mounting evidence of troubling conduct in the home.
Like the children themselves, social workers who raised concerns were often simply ignored.
As the inquiry heard, council services effectively waited for a “catastrophe” to happen before taking appropriate action.
Changed times but no excuse
There is no excuse for such a policy, in any era.
Top officials who gave evidence at the inquiry this week had little or no involvement in the cases they were being questioned about.
The Talk to Us phone lines remain open for anyone who wants to get in touch. You can contact the Witness Support Team from 10am – 4pm Monday to Friday #GetInTouch #StayConnected pic.twitter.com/PJp1QsnEdp
— Scottish CA Inquiry (@ScottishCAI) November 7, 2022
Much of the abuse dated back to the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and the officials said scrutiny and safeguards in the fostering service had changed dramatically since then.
But they admitted they still had lessons to learn from the evidence, including a duty to hear the “voice of the child”.
It is surely, then, long past the time for Dundee City Council to hear the voice of Alexina Kelbie – and to finally apologise to her long-suffering siblings for her death.
More must be done to acknowledge the damage we failed to prevent in the past.
And we must never stop listening for the cries of help going unheard today.