Children in the care of Lambeth Council were subjected to levels of cruelty and sexual abuse that are hard to comprehend, a new report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has found. The Inquiry is calling for a criminal investigation to be considered into the handling of the case of a child who died in care. Children in care were found to be pawns in a toxic power game within Lambeth Council and between the Council and central government.

‘Children in the care of Lambeth Council’ examined the scale and nature of the sexual abuse experienced by children in the care of Lambeth Council over several decades since the 1960s. The report found one of the council’s biggest care homes, Shirley Oaks, received allegations of sexual abuse against 177 members of staff or individuals connected with the home, involving at least 529 former residents. By June 2020, the Council had complaints of sexual abuse from 705 former residents. Despite this, over 40 years, the Council only disciplined one senior employee for their part in the catalogue of sexual abuse.

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.

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.

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.

Read the press release here.

Read the report here.