Children in care of Lambeth council were subjected to levels of cruelty and sexual abuse that are “hard to comprehend”, a new inquiry has found.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse found that Lambeth council’s actions had made it easy for sexual abuse of children to occur over several decades since the 1960s.
The council had received complaints of sexual abuse from 705 former residents of Shirley Oaks, South Vale and Angell Road.
At Shirley Oaks care home there were allegations of sexual abuse against 177 members of staff or individuals connected with the home.
The report found that Shirley Oaks and South Vale were brutal places where violence and sexual assault were allowed to flourish.
Angell Road was found to have systematically exposed children, including some under the age of five, to sexual abuse.
Professor Alexis Jay, Chair of the Inquiry, said: “Over several decades children in residential and foster care suffered levels of cruelty and sexual abuse that are hard to comprehend.
“These children became pawns in a toxic power game within Lambeth council and between the council and the central government.”
Professor Jay said that bullying, intimidation, racism, nepotism, and sexism had thrived within the council as well as corruption and financial mismanagement.
She added: “This all contributed to allowing children in their care to suffer the most horrendous sexual abuse, with just one senior council employee disciplined for it.”
The Inquiry is also recommending that the Met should consider whether there are grounds for a criminal investigation in relation to the death of a child at Shirley Oaks in 1977, after the home failed to inform the coroner that the child had alleged he was sexaully abuse by his “house father”, Donald Hosegood.
The Inquiry has made four recommendations, which include mandatory training on safeguarding for elected councillors and a review of recruitment and vetting checks for foster carers and children’s home staff.
They also recommend that the council provide a response and an action plan on the issues raised.
The leader of the council, Cllr Claire Holland said: “On behalf of all elected Members and staff, Lambeth Council wishes to re-state our sincere and heartfelt apology to all victims and survivors of abuse and neglect while in Lambeth’s care. The council was responsible for their care and protection but failed, with profound consequences. The council is deeply sorry for their experiences.
“As the IICSA Report sets out, the council of the past failed to protect many of its most vulnerable children. A disproportionate number of those children were from Black, Asian and Multi-Ethnic backgrounds. The extent and scale of the horrendous abuse, which took place over many decades, remains deeply shocking.
“The council failed to acknowledge concerns when they arose, often failed to believe children when they disclosed abuse and then failed to take effective action. That so many children and adults were not believed compounded their experiences and caused further pain and distress with lifelong impacts. The council takes responsibility for contributing to conditions in which adults were able to abuse with apparent impunity.
“The Lambeth Children’s Homes Redress Scheme honours our pledge to face up to the mistakes of the past. Lambeth Council proactively established the Redress Scheme in 2018 after extensive consultation with victims and survivors. Lambeth made this decision because there is no Government scheme to provide redress for all victims and survivors of abuse.
“We will continue to listen to survivors and victims as we formulate our proposals to formally mark and ensure the events of the past in our borough are never forgotten.”
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.