LAMBETH CHILD ABUSE INQUIRY: “600 SURVIVORS OF ABUSE” MP TELLS COMMONS
“There seems to be an attempt to dismiss the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association as just one group of survivors” Helen Hayes MP has told the House of Commons.
She was speaking during Commons questions after Lisa Nandy (Lab. Wigan) asked the Home Secretary to make a statement on the leadership, staffing, budget and structure of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse.
Shirley Oaks Survivors Association say on their website that at one point South London had over 70 children’s homes, more than half of which were situated on the Shirley Oaks site.
Out of the 52 houses that operated on the 72 acre site, SOSA say they have identified 24 houses where improper sexual activity was taking place.
“The victims were all under 16 and the perpetrators were either house parents, volunteers or staff. “This list does not include the activity in which the council has dismissed or prosecuted because they will not reveal this to us.”
Helen Hayes (Lab, Dulwich and West Norwood) said that on the opposition benches there was no question but that the inquiry is and must be independent.
In her comments, which came three days after the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association pulled out of the inquiry*, she told fellow MPs:
“But this is a question of confidence, and confidence is not an operational matter.
“There seems to be an attempt to dismiss the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association as just one group of survivors. “I can tell the Minister that that association represents 600 survivors of abuse.
“It has undertaken two years’ worth of rigorous, detailed, exceptionally high quality research on behalf of survivors and has very powerful evidence.
“I have raised concerns on the association’s behalf, as have both my hon. Friend Mr Chuka Umunna, (Labour MP for Streatham) and the home affairs committee, but they have not been answered.
“I am afraid that it simply is not good enough for the minister to demand our unswerving confidence when the legitimate questions we have raised have not been answered.
“I ask her once again: will she intervene to ensure that we can have the confidence in the inquiry that is necessary for it to do the job it needs to do on behalf of victims and survivors?”
Responding, Sarah Newton, Parliamentary under-secretary of state for the Home Department, said: “I absolutely want to put on the record and correct any doubt in the hon. lady’s mind that we take every victim’s story extremely seriously.
“Every victim’s voice must be heard. “That is why we set up the inquiry.
“If I were to intervene, it would no longer be an independent inquiry. “It is absolutely essential that it maintains its independence.
“Professor Alexis Jay who chairs the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has a long and established record. “She did a really excellent job in Rotherham. “If people were to speak to the victims in Rotherham, they would hear the confidence that they placed in her and what a really good job she did there.
“I would strongly encourage opposition members to go back to victims and their organisations and encourage them to re-engage with the independent inquiry and with its chairman, so that we can move forward.”
Earlier in the debate Chuka Umunna MP had told the Commons: “It is not just my constituents who are members of the largest survivors group, Shirley Oaks, whose more than 600 members have said that they no longer have confidence in the chair of the inquiry.
“White Flowers Alba, Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors and lawyers representing numerous other survivors have also said that.
“On Friday, I was appalled that one response to Shirley Oaks’ withdrawal of support was a suggestion that it should be compelled to provide to the inquiry the evidence that it has gathered.
“Its members are survivors of child abuse—they are not criminals.
“Millions has been spent, there has been no public cross-examination of witnesses yet, and the most senior lawyers are resigning month after month.”
*Further reading: SOSA PRESS STATEMENT 18.11.16
SHIRLEY OAKS SURVIVORS ASSOCIATION (SOSA) ARE FORMALLY PULLING OUT OF THE INDEPENDENT INQUIRY INTO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Our decision to pull out of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) should have come with regret but we are sad to say the only emotion we feel is relief.
Now our members do not have to relive their worst nightmares in this stage-managed event which has now been contrived in such a way that it enables the guilty to wash their dirty hands, whilst the establishment pats itself on the back. (Source: Shirley Oaks Survivors Association website)
Elsewhere on the website SOSA say:
The Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA) is a support group that has been set up to listen and document the accounts of those who have suffered or witnessed a variety of horrific abuse whilst in care in Lambeth Children’s Homes. Not all children suffered sexual abuse but to date we now know the victims ran into the hundreds. The destruction didn’t stop there…….
……..It is clear by what we have discovered in our research that Lambeth council failed in their duty of care. What made it even worse was that there were some great house parents and social workers who fought valiantly to protect the children they were mandated to look after. Their efforts ultimately failed because Lambeth council’s after-care programme was non-existent.