27 July 2021 | Comment | Article by Alan Collins
The Independent Inquiry of Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has publicised its report into children in the care of Lambeth London Borough Council (LBC).
The report, based on 19 days of public hearings, is one of three investigations into allegations of child sexual abuse of children in care.
Commenting on today’s report, Hugh James Partner and specialist abuse lawyer, Alan Collins, (pictured) said:
“Lambeth LBC failed the children in its care. Looking at the report it seems that Child protection policies were not child focused. Instead, Lambeth’s attention was focused elsewhere.
It was highly politicised with its politicians frequently engaged in attrition conflicts with central government. It saw itself as pioneering, but this was at best myopic, and at worse delusional. Even to this day some of its former leading lights remain convinced that they were right in pursuing agendas. It seems from the evidence they gave that the widespread child abuse that was tragically being inflicted was an unfortunate happenstance.
Leadership of Lambeth had its attention focused on political crusading. Its priority was not the upheaval that the conflicts generated, or the consequences on the funding of services. Decisions that resulted in the haphazard collection of rates, community charge, and rents inevitably meant that the funding of services were compromised.
The political turbulence and ineptitude invariably reflected on Lambeth. Who would want to work in such a dysfunctional organisation? Indeed, evidence was given to IICSA about the high levels of agency staff employed by Lambeth. This came at a cost both financially and in terms of quality of service.
Children in care regarded themselves as second class entities as they were made to feel like this by the standard of care and support they received from Lambeth LBC. Some of the employees from Lambeth LBC who worked in social services, made valiant efforts to make a difference for the better, but there were those who lacked the training and experience who could. Leadership was found wanting time and time again. A leadership on top of its game would not have ignored rundown children’s homes. Effective leadership would have implemented recommendations made as consequence of various inquiries and investigations that were undertaken when poor practice and serious failings did come to light. Effective leadership would not have commissioned report after report. Moreover, it would have been ashamed of the level of incompetent, mismanagement, and fraud over which it presided.
The culture was such that the interests of employees came before those of the children and young people in care, and this evidently manifested when wrongdoing and failure was identified yet did not result in effective disciplinary action.
What is astonishing, is the ability of Lambeth’s leaders to preside over failure and chaos but to be able to move on untarnished, and in many cases to greater things, and to be rewarded. This flies often in the face of the claims of a pioneering agenda to improve the lot of those in need of Lambeth’s protection and help.”
Now that the report has been issued, what should be done now and what are the lessons learnt? Alan continues:
“Lambeth is not a story from the past but a wake-up call for today. We are only too aware from recent events how vulnerable so many children are in our country, and how dependent they are on statutory services whether it be free school meals or child protection.
There must be true accountability for those with responsibility for vulnerable children, and with that mandatory reporting of child abuse concerns. Had these been features in Lambeth’s make-up then maybe many children would have been spared the ordeal of being sexually abused.”
Read the full report on the IICSA website here.