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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Children in the care of Lambeth Council Investigation Report


A.3: Methodology

11. The Inquiry investigated the nature and extent of the sexual abuse of children in the care of Lambeth Council, including those cared for in children’s homes and by foster carers or adoptive parents as well as those with special educational or additional needs. We examined Lambeth Council’s response to allegations of sexual abuse and its failures to protect children from abuse, as well as the response of police, prosecuting authorities, regulatory bodies and other agencies. The Inquiry also considered the extent to which Lambeth Council sought to investigate, learn lessons, implement changes, and provide support to victims and survivors, as well as the adequacy of its policies and procedures. More widely, we considered whether there was a culture within Lambeth Council which inhibited the prevention and investigation of child sexual abuse.[1]

12. The process adopted by the Inquiry is set out in Annex 1 to this report. Core participant status was granted under Rule 5 of the Inquiry Rules 2006 to 66 core participants, including 55 complainants and victims and survivors. The Inquiry held five preliminary hearings between March 2016 and January 2020, and a final public hearing over four weeks in June and July 2020 – conducted virtually given the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.[2]

13. As a result of the decades of abuse, this has been a complex investigation. Following submissions from core participants, the Inquiry selected five children’s homes in Lambeth for detailed case studies.[3] In Part B of this report, we consider life in care at Shirley Oaks children’s home and South Vale assessment centre. Two of Lambeth Council’s three homes which catered for children with complex needs and communication difficulties – Ivy House and Monkton Street – are examined in Part C. Part D deals with events at Angell Road children’s home. While these five children’s homes cannot represent the totality of what happened to children in Lambeth, they were selected to assist the examination in detail of the institutional responses to allegations of sexual abuse, and to identify themes and issues over the course of more than 40 years. Part E examines the experiences of children in foster care.

14. The Inquiry received evidence from a number of those placed in Lambeth Council’s care as children throughout the four weeks of the public hearings. In total, we heard oral or written evidence from 57 complainant and victim and survivor core participants. With the assistance from all those who came forward and their legal advisers, the Inquiry’s legal team prepared a comprehensive summary of experiences and key issues raised by complainant and victim and survivor core participants.[4]

15. The Inquiry received a detailed corporate witness statement from Lambeth Council prepared by Ms Annie Hudson along with six additional statements.[5] A dedicated witness statement was produced for each of the case study homes, with statements on Ivy House, Monkton Street, South Vale, Shirley Oaks and Angell Road, and a further statement about fostering.[6] A statement on independent visitors was provided by Lambeth Council at the request of the Inquiry during the course of the oral hearings.[7] Evidence was received from former and current staff and councillors.

16. During this investigation, in December 2017, Lambeth Council apologised for its:

continuing failure to ensure that children were protected, and it is clear that the Council did not respond robustly and systematically to address the underlying risk factors and identified causes.”[8]

17. The Metropolitan Police Service undertook a number of investigations into allegations of sexual abuse made by children in care and former children in care (including Operation Middleton) and recognised that it “let victims of sexual abuse down” in the past through its handling of investigations.[9] It established Operation Winter Key in June 2015 to assist the Inquiry and to investigate allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse by people of public prominence or institutions where there have been repeated failings.[10] Detective Inspector Simon Morley provided nine comprehensive statements in response to a number of detailed requests made by the Inquiry in this investigation and in addition Commander Murray gave oral evidence on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service.

18. Evidence was received from a number of other institutions and individuals, including former employees of the SSI (which was replaced by the Commission for Social Care Inspection in 2004) and politicians, who were responsible for the inspection and monitoring of social services provided by local authorities. The Inquiry heard from Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education, Children Services and Skills, which replaced the Commission for Social Care Inspection in 2006) and the Independent Office of Police Complaints (IOPC). The Crown Prosecution Service provided written and oral evidence from Mr Gregor McGill, Director of Legal Services.

19. The Inquiry also heard and obtained expert evidence from Dr Alison Steele (Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health) and Dr Emily Phibbs, a clinical psychologist. Emma Harewood, The Lighthouse’s development and service manager, provided information about The Lighthouse and its work as an organisation providing assistance and support for victims of child sexual abuse. The Inquiry was assisted by a statement from the Havens, a London-wide service providing assistance to victims of rape and sexual assault, including forensic medical examinations. Cardiff University was also commissioned by the Inquiry to research the development of policing in child sexual abuse investigations.[11]

20. In preparation for the final public hearing, the Inquiry obtained more than 35,000 documents (totalling in excess of 360,000 pages) from a range of organisations, institutions and individuals, including Lambeth Council, the Metropolitan Police Service and the Crown Prosecution Service. Social services files were also reviewed, including those generated by Lambeth Council’s five-year CHILE investigation of its children’s homes.

21. A number of witnesses, including all complainant and victim and survivor core participants, were invited to provide their views about any practical recommendations they would like the Inquiry to consider. Those views were collated into a schedule which is included as Annex 4 to this report.

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