Ex-residents of Shirley Oaks to share millions over ‘industrial scale’ abuse
Millions of pounds are expected to be paid to former residents of a children’s home at the centre of sexual abuse on an “industrial scale”.
The Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (Sosa), which represents 700 people who say they were abused at the home run by Lambeth Council in south London between the 1950s and 1980s, has revealed its findings after a two-year investigation.
Lambeth Council has accepted liability for abuse carried out at Shirley Oaks in Croydon and announced that ex-residents would be paid – whether or not they were the victims of abuse.
The report by Raymond Stevenson, founder of Sosa, claims to have identified 60 alleged paedophiles and accuses some police officers of corruption.
It has also claimed to have exposed a cover-up by Lambeth Council, which destroyed 140 care records during the mid-1990s despite legislation stating records must be kept for a further 70 years.
The report also claims 48 children died in Lambeth’s care system between 1970 and 1989.
Mr Stevenson told a press conference in central London: “I can tell you the abuse happened on an industrial scale. The physical abuse was damaging mentally – being locked in coal sheds, in cupboards, over years, what that does to a young mind is it makes you angry.”
Lambeth Council leader Lib Peck said the report detailed “abuse on an industrial scale” but that this is not currently the case for children in its care.
She said: “This report shines a light on a period of Lambeth’s history that is very, very dark indeed and I feel ashamed in any way to be associated with – just because I am the current council leader.
“As the Ieader it falls to me make a full and genuine apology to all of you for the abuse you suffered because of the failings in the care system that you experienced.
“Lambeth should have been protecting you. Lambeth actually denied you that protection and worse.”
She added: “Going forward our commitment has to be around working with Sosa to develop a compensation scheme that is fair, that is speedy and that is generous.”
Lambeth Council chief executive Sean Harriss said officials “do not know yet how many people will come forward under the scheme”, and that levels of compensation will depend on the type of abuse they suffered.
Mr Stevenson told the Press Association: “Lambeth Council has said the compensation could run to £50-60 million.”
Quizzed on who the Council would compensate, he added: “They have kind of shifted on that. We know that every child that was in Shirley Oaks will get compensation, but they have also said that every child that was in Lambeth, they put a caveat where there was a paedophile in the home, will get compensation.
“Well we found a paedophile in every home. So in effect there is knowledge that all the children in Lambeth will get compensation.
“It will be a small amount but then they will be able to apply for physical, neglect, psychological abuse and sexual abuse on top of that.”
Streatham Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who grew up in Lambeth, said: “What happened over decades is very, very dark, the darkest episode in the history of our community and in particular of Lambeth Council.”
He added: “I still cannot understand how one human being can commit and do those horrific acts to any other human being. I simply cannot comprehend how anybody could do that to another human being.
Mr Umunna said it is his “absolute priority” is to get the survivors the compensation they deserve as well as justice, saying it is a “disgrace” they have had to wait so long.
“There’s a lot of new material here … It should not have been necessary for the Shirley Oaks Survivors to do this work, that others should have been doing on their behalf,” he added.
“What the agencies have got (to do), whether it is the Home Office, the Crown Prosecution Service or any other affected agency, they need to take this report and act – and do what they failed to do decade after decade. They have got the material in this report – now get on and do something about it.”
He also said the “Government needs to step up and provide the funding necessary to properly compensate survivors affected by what has happened”.
Sosa was one of the largest groups involved in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse before announcing it was withdrawing from the probe – branding it an “unpalatable circus”.
Last month the association delivered a blistering critique of the troubled investigation – describing it as a “stage-managed event” which has “lurched from crisis to crisis”.