Pro Juventute hit by abuse accusations

Prosecutors are investigating after it has been claimed carers tortured kids at a children’s home in Styria for years, it emerged today (Fri).Police and state prosecutors in Leoben started looking into accusations that five children, aged between five and 13 were forced to stand in the snow with bare feet for 15 minutes during the time they lived at the Pro Juventute home in Bad Mitterndorf. Reports also have it that the kids were not allowed to speak and told to stand in a corner as a punishment for trivial offences.Pro Juventute sacked the head of the home and her deputy after a resident of Vienna informed the organisation’s president of suspected abuse last month. The man said he had been given a diary by one of the abused children during a holiday in the town where the home is located.The children are now staying at a different home. Pro Juventute Austria was founded in Salzburg in 1947. It runs 24 homes for which house more than 220 children, who have been taken away from their parents for various reasons.Waltraud Klasnic, the head of a special investigation group dealing with cases of abuse by Catholic clergy, has announced that 556 people have applied to her group for compensation.The former Stryian People’s Party (ÖVP) governor did not make clear how many people have so far received financial compensation for the ordeals they had to endure at institutions ran by the Roman Catholic Church in Austria. She appealed to other victims of physical and sexual abuse to come forward.The commission was formed by Viennese Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn in March as a reaction to dozens of people making their sufferings public.Various NGOs criticised the decision to nominate Klasnic as its chief. The organisations expressed concerns she might be biased due to her Catholic background.Official figures revealed 30,004 people left the Catholic Church in the first three months of 2010, up by 42 per cent compared to the same period last year, which had already seen a record number of people quitting.