The government has ordered an independent review of children’s social care following a report by the Children’s Commissioner Longfield.
In a report published on Wednesday 11 November many failings are highlighted including a shortage of children’s home places and many moves between placements.
As a solicitor specialising in this area of work I regularly find that children taken into care have a lack of a stability because suitable placements are not provided.
I have dealt with one of the leading cases in this area (A&S v Lancashire County Council) in which two brothers received many millions of pounds in compensation for Local Authority failings. This was an extreme case. In A&S there were multiple placement moves throughout the boys’ childhood. It was quite heart breaking to read the social services records which actually suggested that the boys had got to the point where they did not bother unpacking their suitcases when they were placed in a new home because they knew that they would be moving on so soon.
These boys were already vulnerable. In most of the cases I deal with, the children have already suffered some form of emotional or physical or even sexual abuse before they are removed from their parents care. What they need is good reparative parenting in a stable placement. All to often, however, they’ve passed between numerous placements. Children who were already vulnerable end up developing behavioural problems and attachment issues which, in later life, can escalate to manifest themselves in drug or alcohol dependency issues or even criminal behaviour.
I would entirely agree with Anne Longfield in her suggestion that this is now a common problem. Children who are already damaged suffer significant further harm post-removal by being placed in inappropriate homes. I have numerous ongoing cases which involve exactly this. In the A&S case the Judge actually used the term “Statutory Orphans” to describe the boys who once taken into the care of Local Authority had passed between innumerable homes. There was a lack of any stability throughout their childhood which has left them with lifelong problems.
I have also been involved in many claims for children who have suffered abuse at the hands of grooming gangs. Again, a common factor in these cases is often the inappropriate placement of the children. They will often find themselves in private care homes where the staff have failed to take any action despite knowing that the children are using alcohol and drugs, and are often staying out overnight whilst being abused by these gangs. In many cases, secure accommodation would have prevented the abuse but there are a lack of secure placements available and they are prohibited expensive to a local authority.
From practical experience of dealing with claims on behalf of children and young adults therefore I would fully endorse the findings of Ms Longfield. The rights of these children under the Human Rights Act particularly their right to a family life under Article 8, is regularly being breached by the Local Authority which often gives rise to a damages claim for the long-term harm that these children suffer as a result.
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