The scheme, the costs of which could reach in excess of £100million, would provide swift and compassionate redress, while ensuring compensation for survivors of abuse is not swallowed up by lawyers’ fees.
Lambeth Council is the first local authority in England or Wales to have developed a scheme of this nature. The council has worked hard to get a capitalisation direction from the Government – which gives the council permission to borrow the money needed fund the scheme. Capitalisation means that there will be no need to raise council tax to pay for the scheme.
‘A full and genuine apology’
Cllr Lib Peck, Lambeth Council leader, said: “Terrible abuse occurred at Lambeth children’s homes prior to their closure in the ‘80s and ‘90s and for many the trauma suffered by survivors lives on to this day.
“As the current leader of Lambeth Council I make a full and genuine apology for the abuse that people suffered due to historic failings in the care system. We’ve taken the decision not to be like past administrations and instead to address the issues from a very dark period of Lambeth’s history.
“We are now set to deliver on our pledge to survivors of abuse who have been so very badly let down in the past. This redress scheme offers a formal apology, compensation and access to specialist counselling. It features a unique Harm’s Way Payment and avoids re-traumatising abuse survivors who would otherwise have no choice but to go through the courts.
“We have acted now to deliver this scheme because survivors have already waited too long for redress and there is sadly little prospect of national action on this issue in the near future.
“I thank the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association who have worked tirelessly to support survivors and to raise the profile of the terrible abuse that occurred in Lambeth children’s homes.”
In 2012 Operation Yewtree, the investigation into the abuse of children, found widespread child abuse in many UK public institutions. The national publicity around child abuse led to many people coming forward who had been abused at Shirley Oaks, one of the council’s former children’s homes.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was set up by the then Home Secretary Theresa May in 2014 and Lambeth Council was first named as part of its investigation in 2015. We have been supporting their work since then and have so far provided over 112,000 pages of documentation to the Inquiry. The investigation covering Lambeth was expected to have taken place in 2017 but this is now not expected to take place until March 2019 at the earliest.
The council is acting now to put the scheme into place due to the length of time that survivors have already waited and the delays in the national hearings into these issues. Some of the abuse dates back to the 1930s (when the homes were run by the Home Office and London County Council) and some survivors are nearing the end of their lives without redress, acknowledgement or the support they deserve.
All former residents eligible
All former residents of Lambeth children’s homes prior to their closure in the 1980s and 1990s will be eligible to apply to the redress scheme. Abuse survivors will be given independent legal support paid for by Lambeth Council when they apply to the scheme. An independent panel has been established to consider any appeals.
The Redress Scheme acknowledges that all former residents of Lambeth children’s homes were living in, and subjected to, a harsh environment. With input from survivors a Harm’s Way Payment has been developed that reflects that environment, and has stepped payments of up to £10,000 for former residents. Survivors who went from a council run children’s home to foster care will also be able to claim under the scheme in relation to any abuse committed by the foster carers.
Cllr Peck said: “We have designed the scheme to make sure that survivors get the compensation they are entitled to swiftly and compassionately, and without their payments being eaten up by lawyers’ fees.
“We’re pleased to have secured a capitalisation direction from the government which allows Lambeth Council to meet its obligations to survivors without the need to raise council tax to pay for it.”