Lambeth Council to pay tens of millions in compensation to Shirley Oaks child abuse survivors

Lambeth Council will pay tens of millions of pounds in compensation to children abused in care homes following an investigation by a survivors’ group.

The Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA) published its findings into the systematic abuse of thousands of children by paedophiles in council-run care homes over a period spanning decades on Thursday, December 15.

SOSA founder Raymond Stevenson, who began investigating in 2014, released the report at a press conference alongside council leader Lib Peck and Streatham MP Chuka Umunna.

Cllr Peck apologised on behalf of the council, and confirmed compensation would be made available to all children who passed through Shirley Oaks, on Wickham Road, Croydon, and other homes, as they had all been put under risk.

She said: “The council accepts that there were historic failings in the system set up to protect vulnerable children, and Lambeth Council has previously publicly apologised to those who were so badly let down in the past.

“The investigation by the Shirley Oaks Survivor’s Association (SOSA) has shone further light on the suffering of those entrusted into the council’s care.

“Lambeth Council is preparing a new, far reaching redress scheme for survivors of historical abuse in the borough. It will allow them to secure compensation quickly whilst minimising legal fees.”

The 129-page report – which had access to previously unseen official documents – outlined the scale of abuse at Shirley Oaks between the 1950s and its closure in 198 and highlighted the culpability of ‘corrupt’ police officers.

Attracting testimonies from hundreds of people, it said 60 paedophiles either operated at or had ties with the care home, and that 48 children had died under council care between 1970 and 1989.

According to SOSA, 7000 children passed through Shirley Oaks – a site approximately 70 acres in size, compete with a school, swimming pool, and a doctor’s surgery – one of several homes run by Lambeth Council until the 1990s.

Mr Stevenson said the report was always going to be contentious as SOSA was naming paedophiles.

He said: “We need to tread very, very carefully, as we have seen lawyers, insurers, and councils make it difficult to get justice in the past.

“We’re mindful Lambeth has gone further than any other institute, but all we can say is tread carefully.”

Mr Stevenson also confirmed SOSA regularly speaks with other survivors’ groups, and hopes more institutions will respond to their pleas for justice in a similar way.

Speaking ahead of the press conference, Mr Umunna said: “It is a testament to the Shirley Oaks survivors’ bravery and strength that they have published this report in the search of the justice which they have been denied for too long.

“I hope the report will bring them closer to the justice they deserve. To the extent that allegations are made in the report, it is essential that they are now properly investigated and acted on by the police.”

Featured image courtesy of Casey Muir Taylor via Flickr, with thanks

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