An inquiry has found that staff and councillors in Lambeth conducted a “culture of cover-up” that led to more than 700 children in care homes suffering cruelty and sexual abuse. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse strongly criticised the south London council for allowing “decades of abuse in five of its homes – as far back as the 1960s.”
Held in the summer of 2020, the inquiry investigated five homes – Angell Road, South Vale Assessment Centre, the Shirley Oaks complex, Ivy House and Monkton Street. It found abusers were able to infiltrate homes and the foster system.
The Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse report said:
“With some exceptions, Lambeth Council staff treated children in care as if they were worthless. As a consequence, individuals who posed a risk to children were able to infiltrate children’s homes and foster care, with devastating, life-long consequences for their victims.”
A total of 705 complaints were made by former residents across three of the facilities, yet only one senior member was ever disciplined. The council received allegations of abuse, involving at least 529 residents, against 177 members of staff connected with Shirley Oaks, which closed in 1983.
The inquiry’s chair, Professor Alexis Jay wrote:
“These children became pawns in a toxic power game within Lambeth Council and between the council and central government.”
The IICSA is now calling on the Metropolitan Police to consider a criminal investigation into why allegations of sexual abuse made by a boy, later found dead at the Shirley Oaks care home, were not passed on to the coroner by Lambeth Council in 1977.
Lambeth Council has made an unreserved apology to the victims of the abuse and set up a redress scheme which promised a payment to anyone in its homes who had been “put in harm’s way.” £71.5million in compensation has gone to former children’s home residents, with some individual payments of up to £125,000.