Late last year the Supreme Court handed down Judgment in the case of Armes v Nottinghamshire County Council.
This case provides a strong legal basis to any victim of abuse whilst in foster care who wants to bring a damages claim against the Local Authority.
The case effectively rules that foster carers should now be treated in the same way as employees of the Local Authority when considering a claim. The Local Authority will be vicariously liable for the actions/abuse of the foster carer in the same way that they would an employee.
A practical example of how this is affecting Claimants can be seen in a case I recently settled for Child K.
Child K and her brother were taken into Local Authority care when Child K was 11 years of age. They were placed together with inexperienced foster carers who had only recently been authorised to foster children. The foster father had a criminal record albeit for minor offences that had taken place some years previously.
The placement initially went well until the foster carers took Child K and her brother on holiday.
Child K displayed challenging behaviour and the carers were unable to deal with this and reacted inappropriately. They used physical force. Child K was thrown on to a bed and then handled with such force that she suffered multiple bruising and was left with finger bruises on her skin. The foster carers made her stand outside the holiday home alone in the dark and cold in her nightclothes as a punishment.
For a child who was already vulnerable this was a terribly distressing experience. She reported the matter to Social Services and the Police were involved. Not surprisingly the foster placement broke down.
Some years later when Child K had reached 18 years of age she instructed Farleys Abuse Department to investigate a potential claim against the Local Authority for the injuries and subsequent psychiatric trauma that she suffered as a result of the actions of the foster carer.
We took statements, obtained all relevant records and entered into protracted correspondence with the solicitors acting on behalf of the Local Authority. We argued that the Local Authority had been negligent and in breach of duty in placing Child K with inexperienced foster carers, in failing to properly train such foster carers and in approving a foster carer who had a relevant previous criminal conviction.
Liability was denied throughout and no offers were made.
Everything changed following the decision in Armes the Local Authority were now responsible for the foster carers actions as though they were there employee. Solicitors acting on behalf of the Local Authority immediately adopted a more conciliatory approach and following brief negotiation a significant financial settlement was reached to reflect the injuries that Child K had suffered.
I deal with victims of abuse on a daily basis. Abuse by foster carers is in my opinion one of the worst forms of abuse we encounter. For a child to be in foster care they must already have suffered. They have often come from a home environment characterised by domestic violence or drug and alcohol abuse. They will often have suffered neglect and emotional/physical/sexual abuse. They are the most vulnerable children who need the best possible care within their foster placement. For them to suffer further abuse at the hands of foster carers undermines any faith and trust they have left.
The case of Armes now offers a way forward for these unfortunate victims to secure compensation from the Local Authority for the actions of their foster carers.
Farleys’ abuse team are experienced in dealing with cases of this type and can discuss claims in the strictest of confidence. Please get in touch on 0330 134 6430 or contact us by email.