Abuse compensation lawyer, Elizabeth Duncan, has succeeded in a claim against a local council for foster care abuse. Here is a short case study of how the claim unfolded.
Our client, J, had an extremely disrupted start to her life. She had been known to Social Services from a young age due to her biological parents having issues with substance abuse, leading to the neglect of J and her siblings.
They had been placed with foster parents before ultimately being adopted, but when J obtained her Social Services records she was horified to learn that she had been sexually abused by her foster carers between the ages of 3 and 4. She had then been moved to another foster placement and it was while she was in that placement that she had been able to tell her Social Worker what she had suffered.
J only had very fragmented memories of the foster care abuse and was naturally distressed by what she discovered in her records. Having suffered psychological difficulties throughout her life she wanted to know more about what had happened to her and who had been responsible. She was hopeful of ultimately being able to have some private therapy to help her recover.
She therefore contacted Slee Blackwell Solicitors to investigate and discover whether she may have a foster care abuse claim against Social Services for having placed her into an abusive foster home.
We agreed to take on her case under a No Win No Fee agreement.
Having carefully reviewed her records and discussed the case with an expert in social care we reluctantly reached the conclusion that there was no viable legal claim against Social Services for placing J in the foster home and failing to remove her sooner. Unfortnuately there was no evidence that alarm bells should have been ringing before the children were moved.
It seemed there would be no way for J to obtain justice. However a decision of the Supreme Court in October 2017 gave new hope. In that case (Armes v Nottinghamshire County Council) the court decided that the council were “vicariously liable” for acts committed by foster carers. Vicarious liability is a well established legal principle in other areas of law, such as where an employer is legally responsible for the acts of its employee, even if the employer had no way of knowing what the employee had been doing. The Armes case extended that legal principle to the relationship between foster carers and councils.
We therefore sent a formal Letter of Claim to the council setting out what J had suffered, the knock-on effect this had on her psychological wellbeing, and holding them legally responsible for the foster care abuse she had suffered.
At the same time we gathered evidence from the police about the investigation that had been carried out during J’s childhood and obtained records from the NSPCC who provided her with therapy as a child.
The council denied responsibility, saying they did not accept the abuse had happened. They did however accept that if the abuse had occurred then they, as an organisation, would have been legally responsible for it. They also argued that not all of J’s problems were caused by the abuse as she may have suffered some psychological harm in any event due to the difficult beginning she had in life. Finally, they said that the case had been brought too late and should have been started before J turned 21 years old.
In any personal injury compensation case, including claims for child abuse, the usual time limit for a claim to be brought is 3 years from the events or, if it happened when the victim was a child, 3 years from them becoming an adult at the age of 18. Therefore J's claim was being brought late. However, the court does have discretion to extend this time limit in appropriate circumstances. We considered that a court would be extremely sympathetic to J’s plight and would be likley to allow the claim to be brought late. We also highlighted the evidence that had been obtained from the police and the NSPCC records which was extremely helpful in proving that J had actually suffered the abuse she alleged.
We are pleased to report that our arguments succeeded and the council agreed to offer compensation to J.
After some negotiation we were able to secure J a substantial compensation settlement. She was extremely happy with the outcome. She felt a degree of closure and that we had made the journey so much easier for her.
If you are looking for a specialist solicitor with experience of making a claim against a local council for foster care abuse then please call our FREE LEGAL HELPLINE on 0808 139 1597. Alternatively, you can send an email with brief deatils of your case to us at firstname.lastname@example.org