It is today reported in an article on the BBC news website that hundreds of young people are trying to sue local authorities in England and Wales for failing to remove them from abusive homes.
My only surprise at this news story is the use of the word hundreds rather than thousands. This is one of the biggest areas of growth in personal injury compensation and indeed the legal sector as a whole at the moment, with many thousands of young adults realising that their local social services have not afforded them the protection they should have done whilst they were children.
Sarah Erwin-Jones is quoted in the BBC article. She regularly defends child abuse compensation claims on behalf of Local Authorities.
She paints a bleak picture suggesting high costs and low damages. I would not agree. By coincidence I have received a settlement offer this week for a child who was badly let down by social services and this offer is for a six figure sum.
For years other professionals have been accountable. If a solicitor, accountant or doctor is negligent, their client or patient has every right to sue. My wife used to work as a midwife. She knew that if she did anything wrong the consequences could affect a child for the rest of his or her life.
Why should social workers be any different? If they fail to protect a vulnerable member of society they should be accountable for their actions.
As a solicitor specialising in abuse claims, I have acted in cases where children have been repeatedly and horrendously abused physically, sexually and mentally where social services have failed repeatedly to take the opportunity to protect the children and remove them from the abusive situation. These children have the right to compensation for the injury and damage they have suffered.
To suggest these claims would be more appropriately dealt with by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority is simply wrong. Why should the local authorities escape by passing the buck to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority?
In addition, the CICA will not normally pay the same levels of compensation as a civil court nor will clients have the benefit of legal representation unless they pay for it themselves.
The Legal Services Commission recognise the importance of abuse claims and despite the significant cut backs in other areas, funding remains available for the victims of abuse, and in particular the victims of social workers’ negligence.
We have a franchise specifically to allow us to bring claims against Detaining Authorities and will continue to pursue negligent authorities through the civil courts.