‘Like hell’: what former Lambeth children’s home residents told abuse inquiry

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Yui Mok/PA</span>
Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Hundreds of vulnerable children aged two to 19 suffered sexual abuse, violence and intimidation in children’s homes run by Lambeth council in south London over several decades from the late 1960s, a report has found.

Here are three accounts from some of those who gave evidence to the inquiry of their experiences in the care of Lambeth council.

Child LA-A7

After being taken into care in the mid-1970s aged eight, LA-A7 spent time at the notorious Shirley Oaks care home before running away and moving to another home, South Vale. There he was abused by three male members of staff, including his keyworker, Leslie Paul, who took him to his flat and took photos of him.

LA-A7 escaped but was returned to South Vale by the police. “I had often tried to report abuse to other staff members and sometimes to the police when I ran off. I would be accused of being a liar,” he said. “I tried to explain to them that I was being abused and they told me I was lying.”

Paul worked at Lambeth council from 1979 to 1992, when he was dismissed. He was sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment in 1994 for indecent assault, indecency with a child, and taking indecent images of a child. In 2002 he was jailed for 18 months for sexual offences. In 2016 he was sentenced to 13 years in jail for 18 offences of child abuse.

Child LA-A327

When she came into the care of Lambeth council in the 1970s aged 12, LA-A327 had had a traumatic and abusive family life, including being knocked unconscious by her mother. Her experience of care homes was, if anything, even worse. “Like hell,” she told the inquiry.

Related: Hundreds of children abused while in care of Lambeth council, inquiry finds

She described being constantly placed under restraint, locked in her room at night and forced to take tranquillisers. She later moved to the Calais Street children’s home where she was “raped continuously” and as a result became pregnant at 15. She moved to a council flat where she was left to cope alone.

“That was literally it. I walked out of Calais Street and went into a council flat. No help, no furniture, no nothing … that was it,” she told the inquiry. “I was literally left to deal with it myself. No money, no nothing … I went into care with family; I came out of care, I hadn’t seen my family for 14 years.”

Child LA-A323

When she was taken into Shirley Oaks care home in the 1970s, LA-A323 was just two years old. She was subsequently hospitalised after being thrown into a table by a member of staff, and locked in a cupboard. She was also sexually abused by a male visitor who though not a relative was described as an “uncle”.

She later received compensation from Lambeth council’s redress scheme (which has given out £46m in total as of August 2020). She told the inquiry she had used this to help others. “Every smile Lambeth took from me, I have made sure I have given a smile to someone else.”

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