Skip to main content

British Association of Social Workers responds to inquiry into historic Lambeth child abuse

Statement by Dr Ruth Allen, BASW CEO and Maris Stratulis, BASW England National Director

As a profession, social workers must acknowledge and address historic and current failings. We join with others in apologising to people who as children were abused in ‘child-care’ institutions from the 1970s to the 1990s while social workers, other professionals, the police, politicians and officials in Lambeth services failed to hear and protect them.

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) will always work to ensure social workers focus on protecting, believing and seeking justice for children and young people and act as leaders for children’s rights and welfare.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) chaired by Professor Alexis Jay OBE revealed yesterday that hundreds of vulnerable children in the care of Lambeth council in south London were subjected to horrendous cruelty and sexual abuse over several decades.

The report found systemic institutional failings, a culture of ‘cover up’, and children not being believed.

Children were accused of lying and abused by those who were supposed to provide love, protection and stability.  The report also cites racism being evident in the abuse of children.

Sadly, the report references many professionals who did not act upon children disclosing abuse, including social workers.     

Social justice is integral to social work ethics and values. It means as a profession we must look ourselves in the mirror and call out when we have failed children and young people.

BASW unreservedly apologises to all the children and young people abused in the care of Lambeth who were failed by social workers not listening to them.

It takes great courage to share personal experiences of horrific violence and sexual abuse, racism and trauma, especially when you have not been listened to in the past.

We must ensure that children are listened to, their legal and welfare rights are upheld, and public bodies, inspectorates and national government are held to account – past and present.  


BASW fully agrees with the key recommendations from the report, which can be summarised as:

  • A response and action plan from Lambeth Council on the issues raised in this report
  • Mandatory training for elected councillors on safeguarding and corporate parenting
  • Review of recruitment and vetting checks of current foster carers and children’s home staff
  • The Metropolitan Police Service to consider whether a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding LA-A2’s death is necessary

We also call for the government to issue a public apology to the children, young people and families impacted by these systemic failings.