SHIRLEY OAKS SURVIVORS ASSOCIATION
Hundreds of people who have suffered abuse at the hands of a Lambeth Children’s Home have formed an action group (Shirley Oaks Survivors Association) which aims to get justice for the many that have been sexually, mentally and physically abused whilst in the supposed care of Lambeth Social Services. The abuse suffered at The Shirley Oaks Children’s Home over a period of years dating from the 1950s to 1983 was the catalyst for the endemic sexual abuse that later spread across the UK.
7000 children passed through the gates of Shirley Oaks, which was situated on a site which was approximately 70 acres in size, complete with its own school, swimming pool, works depot and a doctor’s surgery. For most vulnerable children aged between 2 -14 years, it was easy to believe they had been sent to an outpost of heaven. Lush green fields surrounded the village style setting with houses branching off the enclosed ring road which for many would end up being a road paved to hell.
Whether you suffered abuse or not was a lottery depending on which house you were sent to - your fate was sealed. Behind the closed doors of a Victorian style care system was a Victorian style ethos. Children should be seen and not heard and can be abused and not listened to. In the early sixties this seemingly picturesque environment became a breeding ground for predators as they drove their cars around offering sweets and other inducements looking to seduce their vulnerable prey.
The Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA) is a support group that has been set up to listen and document the accounts of those who have suffered or witnessed a variety of horrific abuse whilst in care in Lambeth Children's Homes.
Acclaimed author Alex Wheatle, a victim of abuse whilst in the Lambeth Care system states, ‘We have been forced to form this group because of the failures to take our allegations seriously. We would like to see those who have committed these crimes and those who have failed in their care of duty to extremely vulnerable children, to be made responsible and accountable for their abject neglect’.
The Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA) is a support group that has been set up to listen and document the accounts of those who have suffered or witnessed a variety of horrific abuse whilst in care in Lambeth Children's Homes. Not all children suffered sexual abuse but to date we now know the victims ran into the hundreds. The destruction didn't stop there. When you add those who were physically abused and those who suffered mental trauma the numbers become alarming. Most of this was down to inadequate house parents who failed to address the physiological issues of growing up without parents.
It is clear by what we have discovered in our research that Lambeth Council failed in their duty of care. What made it even worse was that there were some great house parents and social workers who fought valiantly to protect the children they were mandated to look after. Their efforts ultimately failed because Lambeth Council's after-care programme was non-exsistant. There have been many inquiries into the abuse of children in care in South London most notably the joint investigation between the Police under Middleton and Lambeth Council under CHILE. Both of these chose to look in isolation into particular offenders. We intend to investigate all allegations including claims from those who refused to speak to the police.
Shirley Oaks Survivors Association
Raise awareness on Shirley Oaks and other South London Children’s Homes where abuse took place from the 1950s onwards. To understand what the reason was for Lambeth’s inability to carry out its moral and statutory duty to protect the children in its care from 1965 onwards. To investigate why so many paedophiles were allowed to operate or were employed by Lambeth Council. To seek justice for those who were victims of sexual, physical and mental abuse whilst in the Lambeth Care system. The picture to the side is of Shirley Oaks school which was set on fire when it closed, no doubt one of the children who was abused did the right thing.