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Switalskis IICSA evidence summary week 1

INDEPENDENT INQUIRY INTO CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE – CHILDREN IN THE CARE OF LAMBETH COUNCIL INVESTIGATION

Brief overview of Witness Evidence 29 – 03 July

 

01 July – The Inquiry heard from 4 survivors of abuse.

 

02 July 2020 – Annie Hudson, Outgoing Strategic Director of Lambeth Children’s Services (summary here):

Review of the First Witness Statement of Annie Hudson

Strategic Director for Children’s Services

 

Overview

 

Ms Hudson explains her role as the Strategic Director for Children’s Services in that she has statutory responsibility for the Council’s services for children in care. She has held this position for 4 years since May 2016.  She states that Lambeth Council recognises that it failed children who were in care in Lambeth Care in the past and that the consequences of children abuse and neglect are profound and life altering for individuals. She highlights the fact that a number of internal and external investigations were set up for the purpose of examining particular service failures. These clearly indicated that there was a 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.

Annie Hudson apologises unreservedly on behalf of Lambeth Council to all of the former children in the care of the Council who were failed so badly by the Lambeth Council.

She confirms that the Council was entrusted with the care of the most vulnerable children and those who experienced harm and abuse whilst in care of the council were failed so badly by Lambeth, there were systematic failures to safeguard children in Lambeth’s care and these vulnerable children were placed in harm’s way.

She acknowledges the courage that survivors have shown in coming forward and sharing their experiences. She mentions that fact that not all survivors were believed in the past and confirms that the Council have taken a number of steps in order to address this failure and to acknowledge the experiences of those in its care.

Lambeth Council have accepted responsibility for the abuse and neglect that occurred at Shirley Oaks and other Children’s Homes managed by the Council. Lambeth Council hopes that the steps taken demonstrate its unequivocal commitment to acknowledge and seek to address past failings.

She recognises the importance of this Inquiry in examining the nature and extent of past failing and in identifying any lessons that might be learned and in highlighting what can be done to ensure children are protected from such harm in the future.

There are many exhibits referred to in Ms Hudson’s statement and these are all available to Core Participants should they wish to view them

Summary of Sections in the Witness Statement

The statement considers the arrangements and culture of Lambeth Council (section 4). This includes an explanation of the Council Committees that were responsible for Lambeth’s children’s homes between 1965, when Lambeth Council was created, and 1995, when the last mainstream children’s home closed. It also describes the decision making structures in place over this period for managing Lambeth’s children’s homes. Lambeth recognises that its political and corporate culture during the period it managed children’s homes was at times chaotic and problematic, and acknowledges with deep regret the poor and inconsistent quality of governance of Lambeth’s children’s homes over this period The Council acknowledges that there were significant failures of leadership and governance at both political and officer level during this period and accepts that the prevalent culture at times was not conducive to promoting the welfare and safety of the children in its care. Although many of the problems Lambeth encountered were shared by other local authorities, even by the standards of the time, the culture in some of Lambeth’s children’s homes was harsh, uncaring, and hostile which created an environment where the risks to children were likely to have been increased.

A short introduction is then provided to each of the children’s homes to be considered in the case studies: Shirley Oaks; South Vale Assessment Centre; Angell Road; Ivy House and Monkton Street children’s homes (section 5).

This is followed by a summary of the employment and prosecution history of convicted perpetrators, acknowledging that management failings almost certainly contributed towards creating an environment in which dangerous and dysfunctional cultures could and did develop, with serious consequences for the Council’s ability to safeguard and protect children in its care (section 6).

Section 7 of the statement sets out the omissions and mistakes that were endemic to Lambeth’s approach to internal visits and inspections of its children’s homes. By March 1993, when the Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) inspected three Lambeth children’s homes, the required Member and officer visits were not being undertaken regularly. To compound this, Lambeth’s own Inspection Unit failed to inspect the Council’s children’s homes, placing the Council in breach of its statutory responsibilities. The Council accepts that the level of oversight provided by elected Members and senior managers in relation to internal inspections and visits to children’s homes was inadequate.

In Section 8 of the statement she discusses Lambeth’s approach to equal opportunities, particularly in relation to race, and the consequent impact upon service delivery, recognising a paradox at the heart of Lambeth’s approach to such issues. Despite being ahead of other local authorities in its commitment to try to combat inherent racism within society in the 1970s and early 1980s, by the late 1980s and early 1990s Lambeth’s progressive equal opportunities policies and procedures did not result in improved practice within children’s homes, particularly in relation to meeting the needs of black children and their families.

In her statement Ms Hudson then goes on to address the recruitment, vetting and development of staff working in Lambeth’s children’s homes, accepting that Lambeth’s failings in relation to consistently carrying out the necessary checks, and inconsistencies in following its own recruitment procedures, would have increased the risks to children in its care. The high turnover of senior managers led to informal ‘acting up’ to senior roles, creating instability which exacerbated Lambeth’s recruitment difficulties. In the late 1980s and early 1990s Lambeth’s policy of waiving qualification requirements for field social workers, although ensuring a workforce that better reflected a diverse local community, resulted in a proportion of the unqualified workforce that did not necessarily have the skills required to identify and respond to signs of child sexual abuse. External inspections by the SSI in the early 1990s also highlighted a lack of professional supervision of field and residential social work staff, compounding the overall poor quality of practice. The Council recognises that there were failures in the arrangements in place for recruitment, vetting, training and supervision of staff during the time when Lambeth operated its own children’s homes.

In Section 11 Ms Hudson summarises the history of Lambeth’s Fostering Service, including a recognition that by the late 1970s Lambeth had proportionately fewer children in foster care than other local authorities. It also describes the significant failure of the Fostering Service to carry out pre-approval checks of foster carers in the 1980s and 1990s, and summarises available information about allegations against foster carers. It is acknowledged that there were significant failures in the Fostering Service.

The statement also covers what the Council has been able to discover about any deaths of, or serious injuries to, children in its care placed in children’s homes (section 12). Before considering the internally commissioned investigations and inquiries, the statement acknowledges Lambeth’s inability to put into practice the learning from the various national inquiries and reports relating to children in care published between 1987 and 2000 (section 13).

Lambeth commissioned at least eight separate internal inquiries between 1985 and 2000. The first of these, Ivy House, consisted of two management investigations and a formal inquiry into allegations of child sexual abuse in relation to a child who received respite care at Ivy House in 1985 (section 15). The next report was the Investigation into Allegation of Child Sexual Abuse’ which looked into allegations of child sexual abuse at Monkton Street children’s home in 1987 (section 16). The ‘Report of the Enquiry into South Vale Assessment Centre,’ otherwise known as the Zephyrine Report, followed in January 1990. This Report investigated the operation and management of South Vale, including allegations of racism, sexism, poor childcare practice and inadequate management. The Report made a number of recommendations, including the temporary closure of South Vale (section 17).

‘An Independent Inquiry Commissioned by the London Borough of Lambeth’, referred to as the Clough Report was published in 1993. This Report considered issues surrounding the employment of a convicted offender and the management of the care of two boys he had applied to foster. Lambeth’s conclusion from reading this Report is that staff interests were prioritised over children’s needs. (Section 20)

The ‘Investigation into Alleged Breaches of the Council Equal Opportunities Policy in the Housing Directorate’, known as the Harris Report, including allegations about pornographic material being circulated among Housing officers and elsewhere. The Report, published in 1993, demonstrated an oppressive culture within the Housing Directorate, including failure to address serious allegations of harassment, particularly against women and black staff. This Report sheds light on the dysfunction and wider culture in Lambeth at the relevant time. (Section 23)

This was followed by the ‘Inquiry Report of Miss Elizabeth Appleby QC’, known as the Appleby Report, published in 1995, which exposed the dysfunctions which existed within Lambeth Council during the 1980s and early 1990s. The Appleby Report reveals a catalogue of systemic structural, cultural, financial and organisational failings, which partly explain why Lambeth Council was incapable for a lengthy period of time of making improvements, and provides evidence of a prevailing culture which protected staff to the detriment of service delivery. Appleby referred to Lambeth at that time as, “an appalling financial and administrative mess with non-existent or incompetent management” (Section 24)

The final report discussed in this section is the ‘Events and Circumstances Associated with Changes to Services at a Home Providing Residential Respite Care for Children with Disabilities’, known as the Evans Report (2000), which investigated events at Chestnut Road respite home for children with disabilities. The Evans Report highlighted the failure of Lambeth’s own Inspection Unit to inspect Chestnut Road children’s home, and raised serious concerns about the perceived conflict between the necessity to protect the needs of children and the employment rights of staff.

The reports generated by these investigations and inquiries demonstrate that Lambeth was determined to explore the reasons underlying service failure but despite the numerous useful recommendations, there is little evidence to demonstrate that these recommendations were consistently implemented. It is therefore unclear what Lambeth learned from these eight reports as the Council appears to have been unable to put in place, and sustain, the changes required to keep children safe.

 

The Lambeth of 2019 is a very different place to that of the 1970s, or even the 1990s. Child care practice has moved on considerably over this time, both nationally and in Lambeth. Since 2015 the Council has been on a steady improvement journey; the Lambeth of today is fully committed to learning the lessons of the past and doing everything in its power to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse to all children, including as corporate parent to children in the care of the council (section 34).

Conclusion

The review of the documents discussed in this statement has led the Council to conclude that the institutional failings within it can be categorised into four overarching themes. These are:

Firstly, the lack of leadership and failure of governance at both political and officer levels, compounded by the political legacy, financial pressures and the rapid turnover of senior staff as evidenced in the Appleby, Harris and the Barratt reports.

The second theme is the overall poor quality of practice, both within Social Services for children and more broadly across the Council, in such areas as Personnel Management/Human Resources. This is illustrated by the South Vale Report, the Barratt Report, and others, as well as examples of failures to discipline staff properly.

The third theme is that of the inadequate recruitment and vetting practices adopted by Lambeth over the years when the Council operated its own children’s homes, as documented in the Clough Report among others.

The final theme is the Council’s inability to implement the recommendations from investigations, inquiries and inspections, leading to failure to effect any meaningful change.

Lambeth Council apologises for these historical failings, recognising that the problems of leadership and governance, and consequent poor quality of practice that characterised this period in its history, had lasting consequences for many of the children In its care.

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02 July 2020 – Dr Anne Worthington, Former Social Worker in Lambeth Council

Dr Anne Worthington discusses the difficulties facing social service departments in the 1980’s and particularly criticises the police who she states, with hindsight, were ill equipped to deal with allegations of child sexual abuse and particularly children who suffered from learning difficulties. She discusses incidents at Monkton Street and Ivy House.

03 July 2020 – Dr Josephine Kwhali, Former Day Care Officer and Assistant Director for Children and Young People for Lambeth Council.

Dr Josephine Kwhali discusses her employment as a black woman in Lambeth in the 1980’s and the difficulties she and others faced. She discusses incidents at Monkton Street and Ivy House. She also discusses the council’s employment of Michael John Carroll and criticises the police and the council for not being aware of his conviction for sexual assault and criticises the council for their attitude towards his conviction when they became aware, which she states was minimised.

03 July 2020 – Milius Palayiwa, Senior Officer in London Borough of Lambeth 1984 -1993.

In 1986/87 Milius Palayiwa was the Chair of the committee which prepared the Interim Report which reviewed the policies, procedures and practices in place at the time. It is often referred to as the Theaker Report. This report was never published. Milius Palayiwa criticises Lambeth council for this and notes that the police and/or the Social Services Inspectorate could have intervened and did not do so.

03 July 2020 – Robin Osmond, Director of Social Services, Lambeth Council (1977-1988).

This statement has not yet been published. As soon as it has been published a summary will be provided to you.

03 July 2020 – Phyllis Dunipace – Labour Councillor 1986-1990; Chair of Social Services Committee 1986 – 1988; Deputy Leader of the Council 1989-1990; Advisory teacher in Education Dept 1994-1997.

Phyllis Dunipace discusses events which took place between 1986 and 1990 when she was a Councillor. She discusses the difficulties facing social service departments in the 1980’s and the concerns that Councillors had about the quality of social work at the time. She also discusses incidents that took place at Monkton Street, Ivy House, Angell Road and her knowledge of Michael John Carroll.

 

 

 

On 2nd July 2020 he Inquiry heard from Dr Anne Worthington, Former Social Worker in Lambeth Council.

A summary of Dr Anne Worthington’s witness statement, dated 15 May 2020, is below:

Dr Worthington’s statement discusses her involvement in events associated with Ivy house and Monkton Street. She indicates that the Inquiry specifically asked her about events between 1985 and 1987.

The statement discusses how, in Dr Worthington’s view, the council and the police responded to allegations of abuse. She did not have the impression that the allegations were minimised or dismissed. Dr Worthington states that she had no concerns or knowledge about possible inappropriate involvement in ‘political figures or freemasons; about ‘paedophile rings’ or the distribution of pornography; about bullying or harassment or about corruption generally either during her employment with Lambeth social services or subsequently. She states with hindsight that in those days the police were ill equipped to deal with such an allegation by a person with learning disabilities.

She describes how the social services team were similar to any other local authority at the time and in that the culture was relatively hierarchical. She describes how there was a tendency for those needing support from the council to be seen as objects of concern rather than citizens treated as valued customers. She describes how social workers, like herself, were relatively junior and their role was to advocate for, and be on the side of, those they supported. She acknowledges that time has moved on since then. Dr Worthington describes how in the 1980s most council employees were white and that this was not addressed at an institutional level. This is despite the population of Lambeth being very ethnically diverse. She describes a significant amount of racism. She described how the power dynamics between men and women were less balanced than today. How those with severe learning difficulties and problems communicating were less understood and how council staff would not have come across profound learning difficulties in challenging behaviours that were common at Ivy house and Monkton Street. She does not doesn’t recall any specific training in being the recipient of allegations about the sexual abuse of children with disabilities.

She goes on to discuss the management inquiry’s at both Ivy House and Monkton house which arose following allegations of child abuse, along with disciplinary proceedings, but is able to provide much information about these topics due to her limited involvement.

Day 5 – 03 July

The Inquiry will hear from Dr Josephine Kwhali, Former Day Care Officer and Assistant Director for Children and Young People for Lambeth Council.

A summary of Dr Josephine Kwhali’s witness statement is below:

Dr Josephine Kwhali started work for Lambeth social services in 1983. She gives an overview of her experience as an employee of Lambeth. She discusses how she was one of the new black staff members recruited following the publication of the Scarman Report in November 1981 into the causes of the ‘Brixton Riots’ earlier that year. She indicates she therefore felt she faced challenges due to her race. She sensed the attitude of the ‘old guard, new guard’. She describes the period being a difficult one politically and recalls 31 Councillors being expelled and a large group of new and largely inexperienced councillors elected in their place. Social workers and their managers devoted considerable time to hearing evidence at the inquiry into the death of Tyra Henry and responding to the report findings and subsequent press interest. She describes therefore competing pressures. She describes feeling ill equipped and unsupported to meet demands. She decided to leave Lambeth and take a break from the profession.

The statement discusses how in the 1980s, which is when she first into practice, child sexual abuse by staff members was relatively unheard of and how child abuse did not feature in social work qualifying courses.

She describes how there was a hierarchy within the Council and an environment where decisions by those in power would not have been challenged your questioned. She talks about the unease she felt and about her concerns which included unqualified staff, entrenched attitudes, lack of training opportunities and limited accountability. She describes the 80’s as being a ‘sea of change’ within social services with more issues being exposed and changes being made.

Dr Josephine Kwhali discusses the allegation of sexual abuse that happened in Ivy house and describes how the initial inquiry was inadequate which led to a second inquiry. She was asked to join the panel during the second inquiry she describes how the second panel 100% believed that the young person had been abused within Ivy House but this was not the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings.

Dr Josephine Kwhali goes on to discuss issues surrounding Angell Road and Michael John Carroll, noting that she was not aware that he had a schedule 1 conviction.

She questions why Carroll’s schedule 1 offence was not identified by the police at his appointment and why reporting systems were so poor as to allow schedule 1 offender to secure work in childcare initially.  She discusses how, when senior members of Lambeth Council became aware of Carroll’s conviction it was played down as a minor and historical offence.

The Inquiry heard from Milius Palayiwa, Senior Officer in London Borough of Lambeth

1984 -1993.

A summary of Milius Palayiwa’s witness statement is below:

This witness statement discusses the set up of ‘An Independent Inquiry: To Review the Procedures for Dealing with Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse in Establishments run by the London Borough of Lambeth’ (The Independent Inquiry). This report, which was unpublished, is often referred to as the Theaker report.

In describes how the independent inquiry was set up in 1986 by the Chief Executive following the Ivy house case. Millius Palayiwa was the Chair of this Inquiry.

Describes how in the first instance the inquiry limited itself to reviewing policies, procedures and practices in place at the time. The result the a production of an Interim Report that dealt solely on reviewing the procedures for dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse and establishments run by the London Borough of Lambeth.

The witness statement discusses that there was a failure to adopt and implement the recommendations of the report and how this was regrettable a missed great opportunity. He outlines his understanding of why the report was withdrawn which was essentially objections from other committee members. He has recently come to understand that a conflict of interest was raised. He states that both the police and the Social Services Inspectorate in 1987 could have asked and put pressure on the London Borough of Lambeth to release the report and ask for an explanation for the non-release of the same.

The Inquiry heard from Robin Osmond, Director of Social Services, Lambeth Council (1977-1988).

 

The Inquiry heard from Phyllis Dunipace – Labour Councillor 1986-1990; Chair of Social Services Committee 1986 – 1988; Deputy Leader of the Council 1989-1990; Advisory teacher in Education Dept 1994-1997.

A summary of Phyllis Dunipace’s witness statement is below:

She explains her role as Councillor in Lambeth Council and events which took place between 1986 and 1990. She discusses how there were a number of issues at that time but particularly the Council was struggling to deal with race issues following the ‘Brixton Riots’ in 1981 and 1985 and the murder of Tyra Henry, who died as a child in the care of Lambeth on 01 September 1984.

Phyllis Dunipace discusses how Councillors were concerned about the quality of social work practice and were keen to promote fostering and adoption rather than Looked after Children being in children’s homes. She describes poor systems and processes and how Lambeth, as a Local Authority, had a poor reputation which meant that it was difficult to recruit and train staff with appropriate level of qualifications. She was in favour of recruiting unqualified staff and giving them limited roles with supervision and training. She wanted there to be better training of staff so that allegations of child sexual abuse would be handled appropriately.

The witness statement covers abuse which took place at Monkton Street, Ivy House and Angell Road.

In relation to Monkton Street she describes how she has been asked about her recollection of investigations that Lambeth carried out relating to abuse at Monkton Street. She recalls being concerned about the physical examination of the children by the police surgeon which could be construed as a form of abuse of young people with severe learning difficulties. She recalls how the police and the council did not have a strong partnership at that time.

In relation to Ivy House she notes that the investigation had to be carried out twice as there was great concern within the community about the outcome.

She goes on to discuss Angell Road and her knowledge of Micheal Caroll. Phyllis Dunipace states that she had no knowledge of his convictions and his failure to disclose his conviction but acknowledges that social services should have known about his conviction.

End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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