The Pindown Inquiry

One of the first major abuse investigations in England in modern times was into the practice of 'Pindown', employed at several children's homes run Staffordshire County Council between 1983 and 1989. Pindown — solitary confinement, for continuous periods of up to three months, clothed in pyjamas — was used as a punishment for behaviour such as absconding, theft or bullying. After its use came to light in September 1989, enormous public concern was expressed and taken up by the media. The following June, Staffordshire Council appointed Allan Levy QC and Barbara Kahan, Chair of the National Children's Bureau, to conduct an independent inquiry into the use of Pindown. They concluded that Pindown 'contained the worst elements of institutional control'. For those undergoing the regime, it was a 'narrow, punitive and harshly restrictive experience' whose use resulted in despair, isolation, boredom, frustration and humiliation. There was particular criticism for the council's Social Services Department, who appeared to be in ignorance of the use of Pindown in several of their children's homes, and of the system's instigator, Tony Latham, who despite his claimed positive intentions for the regime, had lost sight of the required standards of behaviour and professional practice.

Following the Pindown scandal, Sir William Utting was commissioned in 1991 to conduct a general review of children's residential care. His report made a number of recommendations aimed at improving staff selection and training.

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