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27 Jul, 2021 12:58

Hundreds of children sexually abused over several decades in London council's care on a scale ‘hard to comprehend’ – inquiry

Hundreds of children sexually abused over several decades in London council's care on a scale ‘hard to comprehend’ – inquiry

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has found that more than 700 children in the care of London's Lambeth Council were abused for several decades as part of a “toxic power game.”

In a Tuesday report, the inquiry alleged that children in the care of Lambeth Council “were subjected to levels of cruelty and sexual abuse that are hard to comprehend” at three care homes – Shirley Oaks, South Vale, and Angell Road – “where violence and sexual assault were allowed to flourish.”

Since the 1960s, Lambeth Council allegedly received complaints of sexual abuse from 705 former residents of the care homes, however only “one senior employee” was ever disciplined by the council.

“The report finds that the true scale of the sexual abuse against children in Lambeth's care will never be known, but it is certain to be significantly higher than is formally recorded,” declared the inquiry, which also alleged that black children in the care of the council experienced racism and “abusive treatment.”

Following the revelation that a child who was found dead at Shirley Oaks in 1977 had complained about sexual abuse in the care home, the inquiry is now calling on the Metropolitan Police to consider whether a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death should be launched.

Inquiry Chairwoman Alexis Jay – who led the similar 2014 investigation into Rotherham child sexual abuse, which found at least 1,400 victims and implicated members of the council – said the children in Lambeth “became pawns in a toxic power game” between “the Council and central government.”

“There was a vicious and regressive culture, for which a succession of leading elected members were mainly responsible, aided and abetted in some instances by self-serving senior officials,” Jay declared, adding that the culture “contributed to allowing children in their care to suffer the most horrendous sexual abuse.”

Lambeth Council formally apologised on Tuesday for its failure to protect vulnerable children, with council leader Claire Holland calling the report “deeply shocking.”

“On behalf of the council, I want to restate our profound and sincere apology to all victims and survivors of abuse and neglect while in Lambeth's care,” she said, before going on to blame the “council of the past.”

Holland argued that while the council accepts its “inexcusable failings” and that it “failed so many,” there is a “big difference between the council of the past with Lambeth of today,” which is a “different, more child-focused and positive place for young people.”

The council also promoted its redress scheme, which allows victims of the abuse to apply for financial compensation and free counselling.