The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, chaired by Professor Alexis Jay OBE was set up in 2015 because of serious concerns that some organisations had failed and were continuing to fail to protect children from sexual abuse. In July 2021 they reported on children in the care of Lambeth Council.
The opening paragraphs of the Executive Summary give an indication of the scale of this appalling negligence . . . noting that “the true scale of the sexual abuse against children in Lambeth Council’s care will never be known”.
This investigation examined the scale and nature of the sexual abuse experienced by children in the care of Lambeth Council over several decades since the 1960s, and the extent of any institutional failures to protect children in care from sexual abuse and exploitation. It looked in detail at five of Lambeth Council’s residential children’s units – Angell Road, South Vale Assessment Centre, the Shirley Oaks complex, Ivy House and Monkton Street. The latter two cared for children with complex needs and communication difficulties. The Inquiry also examined the Council’s foster care service.
It is hard to comprehend the cruelty and sexual abuse inflicted on children in the care of Lambeth Council over many years, by staff, by foster carers and their families, and by volunteers in residential settings. With one or two exceptions, a succession of elected members and senior professionals ought to have been held accountable for allowing this to happen, either by their active commission or complicit omission. Lambeth Council was only able to identify one senior Council employee, over the course of 40 years, who was disciplined for their part in this catalogue of sexual abuse.
By June 2020, Lambeth Council was aware of 705 former residents of three children’s homes in this investigation (Shirley Oaks, South Vale and Angell Road) who have made complaints of sexual abuse. The biggest of these homes – Shirley Oaks – was the subject of allegations against 177 members of staff or individuals connected with the home, involving at least 529 former residents. It was closed in 1983. The true scale of the sexual abuse against children in Lambeth Council’s care will never be known, but it is certain to be significantly higher than is formally recorded.
Frontline staff employed to care for these most vulnerable children frequently failed to take action when they knew about sexual abuse. In so many cases they showed little warmth or compassion towards the child victims, who were left to cope with the trauma of their abuse on their own. More widely, it was as if staff intended to create a harsh and punitive environment for children who had the misfortune to be in public care, through no fault of their own.Opening of the Executive Summary of the IICSA Independent Report Children in the care of Lambeth Council Investigation Report