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A damning report has found children in the care of Lambeth Council were subjected to levels of cruelty and sexual abuse that are "hard to comprehend".
The report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse found children in care were found to be "pawns in a toxic power game" within Lambeth Council and between the Council and central government.
The inquiry also called for a criminal investigation to be considered into the handling of the case of a child who died in care.
The report titled 'Children in the care of Lambeth Council' examined the scale of sexual abuse experienced by children in the care of Lambeth Council over several decades since the 1960s.
The report found one of the council’s biggest care homes, Shirley Oaks, received allegations of sexual abuse against 177 members of staff or individuals connected with the home, involving at least 529 former residents
By June 2020, the council had complaints of sexual abuse from 705 former residents
Despite this, over 40 years, the council only disciplined one senior employee for their part in the catalogue of sexual abuse
During the public hearings the inquiry heard of one case, named anonymously as 'LA-A2', who was found dead in a bathroom at Shirley Oaks in 1977.
Lambeth Council did not inform the coroner that he had alleged he was sexually abused.
The inquiry recommended police should consider if there are grounds for a criminal investigation, examining Lambeth Council's actions when giving information to the coroner about the circumstances surrounding LA-A2’s death.
Shirley Oaks and South Vale care homes were found to be brutal places where violence and sexual assault were allowed to flourish.
The inquiry found another of the council’s care homes, Angell Road, was found to have systematically exposed children, including those under the age of five years, to sexual abuse.
The report found 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.
In Shirley Oaks in 1980, 57 percent of children in its care were Black
During 1990 and 1991, 85 percent of children who lived at South Vale were Black
Racism was evident in the hostile and abusive treatment towards them by some staff
Lambeth Council has accepted that children in its care were sexually abused and that it failed them.
Their representative at the inquiry gave a full apology on behalf of the Council, acknowledging that Lambeth Council “created and oversaw conditions … where appalling and absolutely shocking and horrendous abuse was perpetrated”.
The report concluded the council’s apology to the inquiry was fulsome, but noted it did not make any meaningful apology until relatively recently.
This is despite the many investigations and inspections over 20 years which made clear the duty of care it failed to deliver to so many child victims of sexual abuse.
Speaking shortly after the inquiry's report was published, Claire Holland, Lambeth council leader, said: “The council was responsible for their care and protection but failed, with profound consequences. The council is deeply sorry for their experiences.
“The extent and scale of the horrendous abuse, which took place over many decades, remains deeply shocking.
“The council failed to acknowledge concerns when they arose, often failed to believe children when they disclosed abuse and then failed to take effective action.
“That so many children and adults were not believed compounded their experiences and caused further pain and distress with lifelong impacts.
“Lambeth Council fully accepts the recommendations from this inquiry and will continue to strive to improve the care we provide to children and young people.
“The council recognises that there is much more to be done as part of its improvement journey and that we can never be complacent.
“We believe children and young people are better listened to and better protected in the Lambeth of today. Lambeth Council – and our partners – welcomes all the recommendations from IICSA that will assist the council to continue to keep children safe now and in the future.”
Husna-Banoo Talukdar, who said she was repeatedly abused while in Lambeth care homes between 1976 and 1979, said she would not stop campaigning for justice until all the perpetrators’ names were made public.
Ms Taludkar, who waived her right to anonymity, said: “The inquiry missed that opportunity to get those names out there, to get it known who did what – the abusers, the council, the police who covered it up.”
The 57-year-old said she sought to banish the memories of her childhood growing up, but began getting nightmares and flashbacks in her 40s.
She said she tried to kill herself three years ago, and detailed her ordeal in a 91-page letter before taking an overdose, but survived after more than a week in a coma.
She said: “Every day counts now, I know that.
“I will not stop trying to get justice.”
The report makes four main recommendations:
A response and action plan from Lambeth Council on the issues raised in this report
Mandatory training for elected councillors on safeguarding and corporate parenting
Review of recruitment and vetting checks of current foster carers and children’s home staff
The Metropolitan Police Service to consider whether a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding LA-A2’s death is necessary