Shirley Oaks: Care home survivors call for mandatory reporting of abuse

Survivors of prolonged abuse while in the care of Lambeth Council have called for the failure to report abuse in children’s homes to be made a crime.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse heard children at Shirley Oaks endured sustained sexual, physical and racial abuse over decades.

Those in power “lacked any real interest” in welfare and “little or nothing was done” when wrongdoing was found, lawyers for the victims said.

The hearing has now concluded.

Barrister Susannah Johnson, representing the survivors, said: “Whilst there has been an apparent willingness to admit failures and to take credit… for policies which were supposed to protect children, these were not implemented.

“Too often after an inspection or inquiry senior people moved on and little or nothing was done.

“You do not need to know about paedophilia and grooming as concepts to consider that children are or may be at risk.

“These survivors have had enough of hearing about lessons being learned.

“They need to see real changes being thought about, which will offer other children the protection and the redress that they never had.”

The inquiry investigated whether there were child protection failures by public authorities.

Shirley Oaks children’s home had up to 350 residents under the age of 17 until its closure in 1983.

The inquiry heard 48 deaths were linked to the home between 1970 and 1990.

Children were routinely “drugged, tortured and sexually assaulted” by “very many paedophiles”.

During closing statements, survivors’ representatives called for regulation of social services workers, better record-keeping and more protection in law for children in care.

Former residents are also seeking a full admission of responsibility from Lambeth Council, which ran Shirley Oaks, and adequate compensation.

Alex Verdan QC, representing the council, said: “Lambeth holds itself accountable for the failures of the past.

“Lambeth will follow fully through the recommendations from this inquiry.”

A report is expected in summer 2021.

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