Lambeth Council to pay tens of millions to Shirley Oaks survivors
Lambeth Council has publicly apologised and paid out tens of millions of pounds in compensation after a new report revealed the abuse suffered by thousands of children in its Shirley Oaks care homes, which was one of the biggest care homes in the UK.
The pay-outs are understood to total around £40m, far exceeding the £13,000 average usually awarded in court to abuse victims.
The report by the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA), ‘Looking for a Place called Home’, which interviewed 400 former residents at the home, outlined systematic physical and sexual abuse of children at the hands of around 60 people from the 1950s until the homes were closed in 1983.
“The SOSA investigation has shone further light on the suffering of those entrusted into the council’s care,” a council spokesperson said.
“The survivors group has undertaken a huge amount of work and today’s report is a credit to them. Lambeth has accepted that children were let down and has publicly apologised.”
The report, which draws on documents kept secret under the 100-year rule but obtained by SOSA, found that 48 children died in the care of the council between 1970 and 1989, 20 of whom were linked to Shirley Oaks.
It also identifies links between staff at Shirley Oaks homes and at Islington council homes, where there was a child abuse scandal in 1992.
Cllr Lib Peck, the leader of Lambeth Council, made an unreserved apology to the thousands of people placed in Shirley Oaks on behalf of the local authority, which has accepted liability for putting every child who passed through the home at risk.
The council has agreed to pay every person who was a child in the home – and the relatives of children who died – as part of its compensation package, which is to be finalised.
Cllr Peck said: “This is an incredibly powerful report. It is very, very distressing to hear about their suffering, which continues today. The report shines a light on a very, very dark period in Lambeth’s history which I feel ashamed to be in any way associated with.
“As the leader of the council it falls to me to apologise to all of you for the abuse you suffered because of the failings of the care system.”
Chuka Umunna, the Labour MP for Streatham who has worked closely with SOSA, added that all agencies of state should take some responsibility for compensation, as the Home Office had been responsible for appointing superintendents at homes like Shirley Oaks until the 1970s.
“Whether it is the Home Office, the CPS, the police or other agencies, they need to take this report and act and do what they have failed to do for decade after decade,” he said.
“The Home Office, social services, the police, the judiciary are culpable. It is not just Lambeth Council, it is all agencies of government and they need to step up and provide the funding necessary to properly compensate the survivors. That is my message to government: pay up.”
Six police investigations into abuse at the Shirley Oaks homes are now ongoing after SOSA passed information to detectives about the alleged paedophiles who operated there. To date two members of staff from the homes have been convicted.
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