Response to the release of IICSA’s report - July 2021

Following the release of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s report on abuse of children in Lambeth, Lambeth council wishes to re-state our sincere and heartfelt apology to all victims and survivors of abuse and neglect whilst in Lambeth’s care.  The Council, which was responsible for their care and protection, failed to do so with profound consequences. The council is deeply sorry for their experiences.

As the IICSA Report set out, the council of the past failed to protect many of its most vulnerable children. The extent and scale of the horrendous abuse, which took place over many decades, remains deeply shocking.  The council failed to acknowledge concerns when they arose, often failed to believe children when they disclosed abuse and then failed to take effective action.  That so many children and adults were not believed compounded their experiences and caused further pain and distress with lifelong impacts.

The council takes responsibility for contributing to conditions in which adults were able to abuse with apparent impunity. Lambeth also recognises that a disproportionate number of those children were Black, Asian and Multi-Ethnic, despite a range of policies intended to better meet their needs.

The council recognises that there is much more to be done as part of its improvement journey and that we can never be complacent. Lambeth today benefits from robust political and corporate leadership and governance, founded on a sound understanding of its corporate parenting responsibilities.

We welcome all the recommendations from IICSA that will assist the council to continue to keep children safe now and in the future.

How we have changed and our action plan

Below, read how we've changed to ensure such abuse does not happen again and the action plan we've put in place to intensively monitor performance, ensure we have the right processes in place and put the needs of children and young people at the very centre of everything we do.

The full action plan document can also be downloaded below.

How we have changed

While we acknowledge and profoundly apologise for the terrible experience of children and young people in our borough in the past, and equally acknowledge the disproportionate impact of that systemic abuse on Black, Asian and Multi-Ethnic children then in our care, we believe that such abuse cannot and will not ever happen again in our borough.

Here are some of the fundamental changes to the way Lambeth cares for children and young people today.

Specifically, we now have in place:

  • A dedicated ‘Child in Care’ council where children in our care can speak directly to senior managers and elected Members about their lived experience. The members of the Lambeth Corporate Parenting Board visit our children in care in their placements to see what life is like for them in care. Lambeth tracks visits by social workers to ensure children in case are seen and spoken to alone. We now have Independent Reviewing officers in place who are required to see a child on their own and ascertain what life is like for them. They also check that a child knows how to complain and understand that they have the right to an independent advocate to raise their concerns. In instances where a child has no adult from their network of family or friends who stay in contact with them, we offer a fully checked and trained Independent Visitor to build a relationship with the child and look out for them. Children in care now have multiple pathways to raise anything that worries them.
  • We now have better systems in place to ensure staff working with children comply with safer recruitment which means their DBS, qualifications, references and employment history is fully checked. Systems are also in place to ensure full compliance with fostering standards. This means checking DBS of foster carers, adult household members and backup support. Every foster carer has an annual review to make sure they are providing the kind of care we would want for our children. Feedback is obtained from children in the course of the review.
  • When we place our children in (non-Lambeth council run) children’s homes, we seek providers who are rated good or even better by Ofsted. In relation to accommodation that is not regulated by Ofsted - such as semi-independent living - we have our own quality assurance officers who inspect the provider to make sure the provider complies with safeguarding requirements.
  • Lambeth council now has a robust process for dealing with allegations made by children against people who work with them. Where a child has made an allegation, they are offered the support of an independent advocate.
  • We have much stronger corporate parenting arrangements. We have strong leadership and oversight – with new officer and political leadership in place. The Chief Executive, the Lead Cabinet Member (Cllr. Ed Davie) and the Corporate Parenting Board are responsible for oversight of corporate parenting. They provide support and challenge as corporate parents, with actions implemented robustly.
  • All councillors are required to complete safeguarding training as well as training on corporate parenting. Councillors have also been provided with a handbook explaining the crucial role of Corporate Parenting to help them fulfil their obligations.
  • Records management – We now have a robust contract for storing and managing children’s services records off-site as we have acknowledged the difficulties survivors face in accessing records about their childhood. We have significantly improved our processes in this area. We have a dedicated project team who have processed over 1,300 requests since 2015.
  • Staff recruitment and vetting – The council has undertaken a complete check of all 1,124 posts and postholders that require a DBS certificate and in all cases these staff have a valid and up-to-date DBS check, appropriate to the role and level of check required. All council records have been cleansed and updated to ensure robust reporting arrangements are in place. In terms of agency workers in safeguarding roles, all staff moving into the council require an appropriate DBS check and any causes for concern are dealt with through a robust safer recruitment panel prior to appointment.
  • Foster carer and recruitment – we have introduced annual follow-ups on all foster carers: including DBS checks and medical checks. We’ve carried out a detailed audit of all foster carers and associated household members to ensure all DBS and medical checks on foster carers are up to date, recruited a new Carer Compliance Officer to lead on this area and are in the process of building an automated dashboard and alert system to provide accurate and timely information about the status of fostering checks.
  • Deaths of children looked after – the council has accurate records of all children looked after who have died (for whatever reason) while in the council’s care.
  • Quality assurance – Lambeth now has strong approaches to quality-of-care planning and decision making, enactment and compliance with policies, procedures and statutory obligations and robust supervision and management oversight of each.
  • Race and equality – the council recognises and acknowledges the disproportionate impact of the abuse on Black, Asian and Multi-Ethnic children and young people. The council now has a clear approach – both corporately and within the provision of services for children and young people.

Our action plan

To make sure that Lambeth today is a very different place from that of the past, we have a detailed and comprehensive Action Plan through which we intensively monitor performance, ensure we have the right processes in place and which puts the needs of children and young people at the very centre of everything we do.

While we no longer run or maintain children’s homes, we know that the protection of children and young people is multi-faceted and complex and involves far more than mere policies and procedures being in place.

Crucially, our Action Plan is a corporate responsibility. It is not solely the work of Children’s Services to lead on and enact the Action Plan.

Senior leaders across the council – and all staff – have a role to play in its successful delivery, as we journey towards an improved Ofsted inspection and a UNICEF-accredited position as a Child-Friendly borough.

Within our action plan, we focus on:

  • Records management.
  • Ensuring completion of DBS checks (for staff and elected members).
  • Recruitment and vetting of foster carers.
  • Oversight of independent sector provision for children and young people
  • Improved supervision, including a refreshed Supervision Policy.
  • A re-launched Corporate Parenting Board, with Cllr. Davie in the chair and oversight of it via the Children at the Heart of Practice Board, itself chaired by the Chief Executive.
  • A new approach to written protocols that clarifies the sharing of case details with the Cabinet Member and the process for reporting of allegations made against staff.
  • Engagement with the Lambeth Safeguarding Children’s Partnership on policies and procedures around sexual abuse.
  • Providing assurance that allegations against named perpetrators through redress process have been reviewed and referred to the Police and Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) where appropriate.

Read the action plan in full