“SURVIVORS OF ABUSE ALSO WISH TO KNOW THAT CHILDREN TODAY WILL BE BETTER PROTECTED”

A background summary contained in the council’s own report includes the following:

1.1 In 2012 Operation Yewtree, the investigation into the abuse of children, found widespread child abuse in many public institutions in the UK. The national publicity around child abuse led to many people coming forward who had been abused during time spent in Lambeth children’s homes.

1.2 The Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA) was founded in 2014. Since March 2015 the council has worked with them and has provided SOSA with financial support; to help them raise awareness amongst survivors with the production of campaign videos; to support survivors to access their social care records and counselling services; to fund their administration costs; and to fund legal advice for the Association during the drafting of the scheme.

In July 2015 SOSA addressed full council to highlight the appalling treatment that their members suffered as children placed in care in Shirley Oaks children’s home. Council leader Cllr Lib Peck, apologised. The council of today has been clear in accepting responsibility for abuse that occurred at Shirley Oaks and other children’s homes and has also been clear in acknowledging that the council of the past failed to protect many of its most vulnerable young people.

The council also accepted that it is the relevant statutory body to respond to claims for abuse suffered by residents of the home when they were managed by the Home Office and London county council (Lambeth took over the running of the homes in 1965 with the creation of the London borough of Lambeth in its current form). Since 2015 the council has also processed hundreds of requests for people’s social services files and supported the police in bringing fresh prosecutions.

1.4 On 27 November 2015 the IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse) identified Lambeth council as one of a number of local authorities (including Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Rochdale) and other organisations including the Roman Catholic church and the Anglican church for investigation into the extent to which state and non-state institutions have failed in their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.

In March 2016 the council was made a core participant in the IICSA and has so far provided over 112,000 pages of documentation to the Inquiry. More recently, on 6 November 2017 IICSA announced its timetable of hearings up to March 2019 which excluded Lambeth so the outcome of the Lambeth investigation is unlikely to be known for several years.

In addition it had been anticipated that IICSA would consider the issues of compensation and that would inform the council’s approach, however, the council feels it is important to address this difficult issue as soon as possible.

2. Proposal and Reasons

2.1 Lambeth council has been rightly criticised in the past for failing to act in response to allegations of child abuse. The current administration has recognised this and has made a commitment to implement a redress scheme which, whilst it will never undo the wrongs of the past, will represent a public acknowledgment of the past failures in the provision of care to vulnerable children and seek to help people who have been so badly affected by these failings in moving forward with their lives.
 
2.4  The council needs to progress a redress scheme as quickly as possible given that some abuse dates from the 1930’s and some survivors are nearing the end of their lives. Finalising the scheme and moving quickly to compensate people is an urgent requirement to allow them to get on with their lives.

2.5 The council has been in discussion with SOSA because of the large numbers of their members affected who were formerly in Lambeth’s care at Shirley Oaks children’s home. The redress scheme will be open to former residents of all Lambeth Children’s Homes as defined in the scheme.

Following the Supreme Court ruling in Armes v Notts county council [2017] that councils are vicariously liable for abuse by foster carers, the Redress Scheme has been extended to include children who were placed with foster parents directly from a Lambeth Children’s Home.

2.14 In light of the court decision, the scheme has been extended to children who were abused by foster carers if children were placed with the foster carers directly from a Lambeth children’s home. The council recognises that where there is a direct correlation between placement in a children’s home and a move to foster care placement in which a child suffered abuse then those claims can be dealt with through the Scheme.

2.15 There are other instances that SOSA have highlighted which are not suited to be dealt with in the scheme but where the council will continue to meet its legal duties and liabilities by dealing with those claims in the usual way. The council will have regard to any ongoing safeguarding issues which may be identified as a result of any allegations made.

2.18 The scheme provides for all those eligible to receive a written apology acknowledging what has happened to them and providing an acceptance of responsibility by the Council. In addition, a meeting with a senior council representative will be offered to all those who enter the scheme to ensure the council has fully heard and understood the extent of the harm suffered by individuals. We recognise that survivors want to know that the lessons of the past have been learnt, and that children today do not face the same hazards. We know that for many people this is more important than compensation.

5. Consultation

5.1 It was clear from an early stage in the engagement with SOSA that the council needed to work closely with survivors to develop a redress scheme which would address their experiences, as detailed in a report written by SOSA which highlighted the appalling scale of abuse which had taken place over a long period of time at Shirley Oaks children’s home.

5.2 The council has had many meetings with SOSA to identify the types of reparations that could be included in a redress scheme. It was also clear that the council needed to work to develop a Scheme that survivors felt comfortable with and which they would access.

5.3 At the launch of the SOSA’s interim report in December 2016 council leader Lib Peck said: “The testimonies we heard today at the launch of SOSA’s report were incredibly moving. “This report shines a light on a period of Lambeth’s history that is very dark indeed. “As the current leader of Lambeth council I make a full and genuine apology for the abuse that people suffered due to failings in the care system. We’ve taken the decision not to be like past administrations and instead are working openly and constructively with SOSA.”

9.3 Counselling*

The council has commissioned Oxleas Mental Health NHS Trust to provide independent counselling to survivors until March 2019. Under the scheme applicants will be able to access the specialist and dedicated confidential counselling support service. This service will be funded by the council for the duration of the scheme. If, at this stage, there continues to be a need for the counselling services by eligible applicants, the council will consider whether the counselling service should be extended for a further period of time. (*The report to cabinet heads this section ‘Procurement’ – Ed.)

9.4 Health

The long-term mental and physical health effects of childhood abuse are well documented, and we know from the stories that people have told us that their experiences have remained with them their entire lives.

Nothing can fully compensate people for those experiences but it is important for survivors that the abuse that happened to them is recognised and acknowledged, and that they receive an apology.

Survivors of abuse also wish to know that children today will be better protected. It is also the case that because of the adversarial nature of the court process survivors of abuse can be re-victimised by having to recount their experiences.

The aim of the redress scheme is to prevent re-victimisation whilst providing a range of reparations that hopefully will enable people to move on with their lives.

Paragraphs in bold type have been highlighted by News From Crystal Palace.

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