Lambeth report: Survivors' group founder reacts to London council child abuse inquiry

28 July 2021, 07:34 | Updated: 28 July 2021, 14:25

By Sam Sholli

A survivors' group founder has given LBC his response to an inquiry into historic child abuse finding children who were under the care of Lambeth Council were subjected to cruelty and sexual abuse.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) into Lambeth Council examined five facilities - Angell Road, South Vale Assessment Centre, the Shirley Oaks complex, Ivy House and Monkton Street.

"The sexual and other abuse of children was widespread in Lambeth Council’s residential and foster care during the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s," the IICSA's report said.

The report also said: "The culture of cover‑up, inability to effect real change and lack of concern for the day‑to‑day lives of children in its care characterised Lambeth Council’s response to inspection and oversight."

The report said that "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" while also saying that by June 2020 Lambeth Council had received complaints of sexual abuse from 705 former residents at three of the facilities.

Ray Stevenson, who founded the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association, spoke to LBC's Eddie Mair following the publication of the report.

Mr Stevenson, who himself spent 12 years at the Shirley Oaks home and suffered physical abuse while there, told LBC that "many of [his] friends went on to commit suicide".

He added: "So we need to understand why children go on to commit suicide."

Mr Stevenson also claimed that "in the case of the Lambeth" there was a "cover-up that happened during the Met investigation in 1998 to 2003" which was "part of the problem".

The IICSA report also said: "Through such poor practice and its failure to respond to concerns and allegations, Lambeth Council put vulnerable children in the path of adults known or suspected to be perpetrators of child sexual abuse."

In addition, the independent inquiry also found that police should consider a criminal investigation into Lambeth Council's handling of the case of a child (LA-A2) who was found dead in a bathroom at the Shirley Oaks complex in 1977.

Metropolitan Police Commander Alex Murray has said: “We welcome today’s report by the IICSA.There are victims and families who have waited years for this, and I hope today’s publication brings some answers.

“It is clear that at different times we missed opportunities to identify offenders and investigate further. Some of the treatment of children was also unacceptable. We are sorry for when we let children in the care of Lambeth down.

“As the report notes, we have changed the way we investigate allegations of child sexual abuse, with better training for officers, greater collaboration between social care partners, and putting the victim at the heart of the investigation. We are building a culture of professional curiosity within the Met to ensure any officer with concerns about a child acts promptly and appropriately.

“We will ensure that any learning for the Met will be taken forward.

“We have received the recommendation by IICSA namely ‘the death of LA‑A2 whether the Met should consider whether there are grounds for a criminal investigation into Lambeth Council’s actions when providing information to the coroner about the circumstances surrounding LA‑A2’s death’, which we will now assess.

“We encourage anyone who has been the victim of child sex abuse to come forward and speak with us.”

In a statement, Lambeth Council said: Following the release of the inquiry’s report, Lambeth Council wishes to re-state our sincere and heartfelt apology to all victims and survivors of abuse and neglect whilst in Lambeth’s care.

"The Council, which was responsible for their care and protection, failed to do so with profound consequences. The council is deeply sorry for their experiences."