1. What is the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA)?
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was announced by the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, in 2014, as a response to concerns that some organisations had failed and were continuing to fail to protect children from sexual abuse. Through its investigations and public hearings, IICSA is examining what went wrong and why.
As a statutory inquiry, IICSA has unique authority to compel both witnesses and any material it feels is necessary in order to investigate where institutions have let children down in the past. The findings IICSA makes and the evidence it gathers will inform its recommendations to help better protect children in the future.
2. Why was Lambeth council included in the IICSA hearings?
The chair of the inquiry announced in November 2015 that IICSA would undertake 12 separate investigations, including one into children in the care of Lambeth Council.
The formal public hearings of the inquiry, into “the extent of any institutional failures to protect children in the care of Lambeth Council from sexual abuse and exploitation”, took place between June 29 and July 31 2020.
3. Was Lambeth Council represented at the hearings?
The hearings heard evidence from a number of individuals and organisations, including survivors, current leaders (elected and officers) of the council, the police and government departments, as well as those involved in running Lambeth council in the past.
Lambeth council’s formal corporate witness statement, on specific historical issues requested by IICSA, can be read here: Children in the care of Lambeth Council | IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
4. What has Lambeth council been doing about the allegations of historic sexual abuse?
The council had acknowledged the appalling treatment endured by children in Lambeth’s former children’s homes well before IICSA announced that this would form part of their inquiry.
In July 2015, the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA) addressed councillors to highlight the suffering they had experienced as children placed in care in Shirley Oaks Children’s Home. The then-Council Leader, Lib Peck, apologised for the Council’s past failings, and pledged to work openly and constructively with survivors.
She said: “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.”
The council subsequently agreed a Redress Scheme, to provide a mechanism for compensating survivors of sexual, physical and psychological abuse suffered at the borough homes which were open from the 1930s until the 1990s.
Since then, the leadership of Lambeth council has changed.
Former Leader, Cllr. Jack Hopkins, re-stated our profound apologies and put in train a new corporate Action Plan.
Cllr. Claire Holland, the new Leader of Lambeth council, will also re-state our apology and has oversight over the Action Plan and – working with Cllr. Ed Davie, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People and all Cabinet Members and senior officers - is working to ensure we deliver against every aspect of it.
5. Why did Lambeth set up the Redress Scheme?
Lambeth’s Redress Scheme was launched, in the absence of a national equivalent, to avoid re-traumatising survivors by offering an alternative to going through the courts – which is the usual route for compensation claims. It aims to be quicker, simpler and with lower legal costs – meaning compensation for survivors of abuse is not swallowed up by lawyers’ fees.
When the scheme was launched, in 2018, it was anticipated that the IICSA public hearings into children in the care of Lambeth would have taken place before the scheme’s scheduled closing date, on January 2nd 2020.
However, when it became clear that the Lambeth IICSA hearings would not take place until 2020, with the published Report set for publication on July 27th 2021, Lambeth extended the scheme for a further two years. No other local authority has taken such proactive action to compensate survivors.
Find out more by visiting www.lambeth.gov.uk/redress
6. What does the Redress Scheme provide?
The Lambeth Redress Scheme pays compensation to people who were abused or lived in fear of being abused while in Lambeth’s care as children. The scheme is for those who lived in or visited a Lambeth children’s home or attended Shirley Oaks Primary School.
It provides for:
- “Harm’s Way Payments”, for people who were resident at a Lambeth children’s home and feared that they would be physically and/or sexually abused, and/or who were neglected and/or suffered cruelty while there.
- “Individual Redress Payments”, for people who suffered sexual abuse and/or physical abuse and/or psychological injury at a Lambeth children’s home and/or Shirley Oaks Primary School.
In addition to financial compensation, eligible applicants to the Scheme are also entitled to receive a formal letter of apology from the Council, a meeting with a senior officer, access to advisory services and the provision of free personalised counselling support.
In addition to counselling support available under the Scheme, the Council has a free specialist and dedicated independent counselling support service for all survivors available through Oxleas NHS Trust.
7. How many people have received compensation through the Redress Scheme?
As of July 2021, there have been 1,877 applications submitted into the Redress Scheme, and a total of £71.5million has been paid out of the scheme (including £15,138,747 in legal fees, including the payment of VAT on third party solicitors legal costs).
Of the 1,877 applications, 1,542 (83%) reported some kind of historic abuse, of which 988 (53%) have reported sexual abuse (including physical and/or psychological abuse in the majority of these cases). 466 (25%) of the applicants reported physical abuse that was not of a sexual nature, but the majority of these cases also included psychological abuse. 249 applicants (13%) reported child-on- child abuse during their time at a Lambeth children's home, while 355 applicants (19%) – almost a fifth - reported being subjected to racial abuse.
8. Has Lambeth council been cooperating with IICSA?
Lambeth council is a core participant in this investigation and has been cooperating constructively with IICSA throughout the process.
The authority disclosed over 300,000 pages of relevant documents and records to IICSA.
In its corporate witness statements to the Inquiry totalling over 1,000 pages the Council has identified key themes which led to the historical failings:
i) Lack of leadership and failure of governance and accountability;
ii) A failure to implement and sustain change;
iii) Poor quality of social work practice; and
iv) Inadequate HR practices.
The council also made a number of concessions in advance of the public hearings in 2020 in order to proactively assist the Inquiry in its investigation and reaching its findings.