The true number of children sexually abused while being looked after in Lambeth Council children’s homes between the 1950s and 1980s is “likely to be higher” than estimated, a new report has warned.
A report into child sexual abuse across England and Wales said it was unlikely the council had been able to identify all victims. More than 1,900 people have received payouts from Lambeth through its compensation scheme, which closed earlier this year.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) report said “its investigations into children in the care of Lambeth Council” and also councils in Nottinghamshire concluded that “the true number of victims of child sexual abuse likely to be higher than the local authorities had been able to identify”.
The 468-page report summarised the findings of the child abuse inquiry’s 15 investigations, including that into Lambeth’s historic abuse scandal. Lambeth’s current leader, Claire Holland, welcomed the report and its recommendation for a national compensation scheme for sex abuse victims.
She said: “We welcome today’s publication of the IICSA final report. Its recommendations are vital for all public institutions to ensure children are kept safe from harm.
Holland added: “The report also recommends the need for comprehensive redress for those who were so very badly let down. Lambeth Council has been calling for a national redress scheme since 2016, having launched our own compensation scheme in 2017 to acknowledge the suffering experienced by the survivors of abuse at our former children’s homes.”
Over £87 million has been paid to victims by the council. Lambeth said it had issued all known victims with a formal apology, offered them counselling and provided them with independent legal representation when applying for compensation.
A report into abuse at Lambeth’s children’s homes published in 2021 said only one senior Lambeth council worker was punished over failures to deal with the 40-year child sexual abuse scandal. The IICSA report restates the failings identified.
It said the “politicised” behaviour of the left-wing Labour-run council in the 1980s meant most elected officials at the time were “distracted from their primary task of providing good quality public services, including children’s social care”.
The council’s refusal under the late “Red” Ted Knight to set a council tax rate in 1986, in defiance of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, resulted in 33 councillors being removed.
A third of Lambeth’s foster care placements were scrapped after the council reviewed criminal record checks in the late 1990s. Describing the sexual abuse inflicted on children in the care of the council as “hard to comprehend,” the report said those who ran the council at the time “simply did not care enough to prioritise the protection of children”.
“We have apologised to the victims and survivors for the inexcusable and appalling mistreatment they were subjected to,” holland said. “On behalf of this council I wish to restate our sincere and heartfelt apology to all victims and survivors of abuse and neglect whilst in Lambeth’s care.”
Report from Local Democracy Reporting Service.
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