Friday, 22 December 2017

Cllr Scott Ainslie lone voice supporting survivors' calls on redress for child abuse in Lambeth care

Cllr Ainslie and survivors' spokesman Raymond Stevenson
Lambeth Council's redress scheme for children who were abused in its care was nodded through by the council's cabinet this week without a formal vote and against the wishes of survivors who say they have no confidence in the local authority to bring out the truth about what happened to them.

Hundreds of survivors who attended a noisy Cabinet meeting held at the Oval cricket ground were unclear what had happened as council leader Lib Peck looked up at her colleagues and asked "Is that agreed then?", before closing the meeting and walking out to the sounds of angry protests.

Earlier the meeting had heard from Raymond Stevenson of the Shirley Oak Survivors Association that only a fully independent panel to address claims for compensation would have the confidence of people who had experienced cover-ups by Lambeth Council in the past.

Michael Mansfield QC, representing survivors, said that the council's proposed redress scheme failed on 10 counts, including:
• Lack of disclosure to victims of information held by the council
• Lack of opportunity for oral evidence to be heard
• No obligation to provide reasons for the decisions made by the scheme's administrators

The only councillor to speak at the meeting in support of a fully-independent redress panel was the Green Party's Scott Ainslie (St Leonard's ward), who won rowdy cheers from survivors.

Cllr Ainslie told the Cabinet: "These people don't want any more apologies. They want to be heard and to know that their recommendations are acted upon.

"You can't talk of historic failings when the one major ask they have is categorically being denied to them. Please, please stop denying them what they want. The proposed scheme ignores the very reasonable and just demand from survivors and victims for an independent panel to administer the scheme from the outset.

"Lambeth has a real opportunity to set the standard for open and fair redress for victims and to begin to make amends and to demonstrate that the cover-ups of the past are truly behind us.

"But despite the false assurances given in July by the leader of this Labour council, this proposed redress scheme continues to ignore the principles of human rights and natural justice and is failing the very people it sets out to serve.

"Only a fully independent scheme will begin to build the trust of those who have been abused in the care of Lambeth in the past. An in-house team will never earn the trust of survivors."

A full council meeting following the Cabinet was held behind closed doors after it was disrupted by angry protests from survivors. The Green Party's Scott Ainslie was the only councillor to vote against approving the Cabinet's decision to implement its own redress scheme – with one abstention by former Labour councillor (now independent), Rachel Heywood (Coldharbour).

Video footage of the meeting here and here.

See extensive reports on the story from News From Crystal Palace blog.

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