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The Knowledge and Definition of Child Abuse within Scottish Office Departments, 1945-74: Report for the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry

Author: Levitt, I.

Professor Ian Levitt (Emeritus Professor of Social Policy, University of Central Lancashire), wrote a report for the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry examining the definition of child abuse and the extent of knowledge about it within Scottish administrative departments from 1945 to 1974. Professor Levitt carried out extensive research and analysis of the government papers for this period retained by the National Records for Scotland (NRS). Extant childcare files indicate that officials with oversight for statutory child care provision were regularly informed about the living conditions for children in approved schools and children’s homes. From the mid-1960s, there was greater recognition of how different care settings affected children, and awareness of the limits of the statutory provision for children in need of care. This knowledge seems to have influenced changes in legislation, rules and regulations. However, the records also indicate that proposed reforms were often met with resistance by voluntary organisations, who were responsible for the institutional care of many children during the period under consideration. Professor Levitt’s work provides an unique insight into officials’ internal and external negotiations regarding the evolution of residential childcare provision in Scotland.