Abuse specialist, Rachel Thain looks at the liability of Local Authorities for ‘failure to remove’ abuse victims.

There have been a number cases reported in the media over recent years criticising Social Services for a lack of intervention where neglect or abuse is taking place. In some cases Social Services have missed the signs of abuse taking place within a family and at times they have simply failed to take appropriate action when they are aware of abuse.

A Local Authority is responsible for the provision of Social Services to families within its geographical jurisdiction. The Social Services within a particular Local Authority are responsible for the assessment, supervision, monitoring and review of children who they know, or ought to know, are in need of care, protection or control. These responsibilities are imposed by the Children Act 1989. Section 47 of the Act establishes the Local Authority’s duty to undertake investigations where they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.

What is considered to be reasonable cause could be open to interpretation, but it is clear that the welfare of the child should be of paramount consideration. Local Authorities have been criticised for a lack of communication between departments and staff members. This has resulted in a failure to act despite there being what many would consider a more than reasonable cause for concern when looking at the bigger picture. A child who is a victim of abuse will be extremely vulnerable and is likely to feel unable to report the abuse even when specifically asked. Social Services therefore need to be aware of indicators of abuse present within family relationships and the child’s behaviour.

Of particular concern are situations where Social Services have been heavily involved in a family for a months or even years, but clear indicators of abuse and/or neglect have not been acted upon. This results in the child involved experiencing on-going abuse and suffering that could have been prevented if Social Services had complied with their duty to investigate and exercised the powers available to them to intervene. Social Services have the power to remove a child from the home and place them into a suitable foster care arrangement in order to provide protection from exposure to further abuse.

Whilst Social Services are often powerless to prevent abuse from occurring in the first place, it is imperative that once they have become involved they undertake the necessary investigations and take the action required to prevent further abuse. Efficient and supportive intervention from Social Services is likely to significantly mitigate the lasting psychological effect of the abuse on the child.

It is often not until a child’s Social Services records have been examined that the full extent of the knowledge of the Local Authority regarding indicators and reports of abuse comes to light. If when these records have been examined it appears that Social Services have breached their duty of care by failing to remove the victim of abuse from his or her abusive environment then a civil claim for abuse compensation may be a viable possibility.

If you believe that you have suffered continued and preventable abuse as a result of Social Service’s failing to intervene and would like to know where you stand concerning a legal claim for abuse compensation then email us in confidence now or call freephone 0808 139 1597.

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