Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2766

Damning reports reveal child abuse the state ignored

Separate inquiries into child sexual abuse at two councils are shocking accounts of how poor children are cast aside by the system, writes Simon Basketter
Issue 2766
Lambeth Council chamber
Lambeth Council chamber

“They treated children in care as if they were worthless.”

This is the damning verdict of a report about the abuse of children in south London in Lambeth Council’s care by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

More than 700 children suffered years of sexual, physical and racist abuse since the 1960s, says the report.

At least 48 deaths were connected to the abuse.

The inquiry investigated abuse in a range of institutions.

It has a chequered history of getting to the bottom of abuse scandals, particularly those involving the higher reaches of the state. This meant some survivors of the Lambeth scandal were reluctant to give evidence.

But it is clearly not “spaffing up a wall” as Boris Johnson so charmingly claimed.

The report said, “This complete disbelief of children was incomprehensible. Even when their allegations proved to be substantiated, they were shown no compassion and given no support.”

Some were taken into care because they experienced—or were at risk of—abuse or neglect.

Some were in care simply because they were from families whose problems were poverty.

The council “put vulnerable children in the path” of sex offenders, with “devastating, life-long consequences for their victims”.

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Only one member of senior staff was ever disciplined.


One boy died in a home in 1977, having previously complained of being abused by a senior member of staff. The council didn’t bother telling the coroner about the abuse.

The report highlighted the case of Michael John Carroll, who recruited staff and investigated complaints at the Angell Road children’s home. He had failed to disclose a child abuse conviction but kept his job when found out.

He was later convicted of 34 counts of child sexual abuse, including of boys in the care of the council.

These are not just problems of the past. Children across Bradford, for instance, are being abused and are unprotected, according to another new damning report.

A review into five cases in Bradford following instances of abuse of children in council care found they had been “raped, sexually assaulted, physically assaulted and forced to take drugs and alcohol”.

Four of the five “experienced being arrested, spending time in custody and in some cases convicted of offences”.

In one case 14 year old Anna went missing from a residential home over 70 times.

At 15, she “married” her abuser and her social care worker attended the ceremony. After being raped she became pregnant and was fostered by the same family.

The report added, “Children and young people are actively—here and now—being exploited and abused.”

Predictably the Daily Mail newspaper decided the Lambeth scandal was all about the left wing Labour council in the 1980s.

The report did say that the council sought to “take on the government” to the detriment of services in the 1980s.

The report added, “During that time, children in care became pawns in a toxic power game within Lambeth Council and between the council and central government.”

While this doesn’t recognise who held the most power, it is true that the children held the least.


The horrific abuse covered in the report went on for over four decades. So for the Mail to say it is down to the left wing council rate capping campaign is at best obtuse.

And despite the Lambeth victims being disproportionately black, the quest to blame “political correctness” goes on.

The Sun and others claimed official fear of being called racist in Bradford facilitated abuse. This isn’t in the report—which is critical of the police and social services—at all.

It doesn’t detract from the horror of the case to note that a Home Office report last year showed most of those who commit child sexual exploitation offences in groups are white men.

Just as noting that most abuse takes place within the family doesn’t diminish the horrors meted out in state institutions.

Survivors of abuse struggle to get support, never mind justice. But then the Tories have cut by a quarter the funding for child protection services in the last ten years.

Attitudes that treat working class young people as worthless and women as objects don’t come from one ethnic group. They come from the top of the system. The press that salaciously whips up racism over abuse reinforces those ideas.

There will be more handwringing and scapegoating as the inquiry publishes its full report next year.

What there won’t be is an attempt to tackle a system that institutionalises and covers up the abuses it creates.

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