I was interested to read that as we approach a General Election the Government have proposed to impose criminal sanctions on those in authority who fail to protect children.
I recently gave a presentation to various Senior Managers at the Official Solicitor’s Office in London. These people specialise in acting as Litigation Friend for children who have suffered neglect and abuse, usually as a result of failings by Local Councils.
At the end of the presentation I asked the Senior Managers for any comments and questions.
One of the Managers expressed surprise and some anger that the claims we were bringing were against the Council generally and were being met by their Insurers asking why there was no personal responsibility on the part of the Head of Social Services.
It is a common feature of many of the cases that we deal with that children have been badly let down by a Social Worker or Teacher.
As the children get older they are obviously keen to secure damages for what they have been through. In some of the cases I deal with these damages can exceed £1,000,000.00. The damages however are normally secondary to their wish to hold somebody responsible for what they have suffered. It is all too easy for the Council and their Insurers to negotiate settlement of a claim without their being any comeback for the negligent Social Worker or the Head of Social Services. We have seen in Rochdale, Rotherham and other abuse scandals the extent to which Social Services can have let down large groups of children without any acknowledgement that the Social Services Department have been at fault.
The introduction of this new legislation will help victims.
My only concern as a Lawyer specialising in this area of work is that at present the legislation seems to be aimed at Teachers, Counsellors and Social Workers when from my personal experience it is often the Police who are at least culpable in failing to protect children and I wonder whether the Government’s proposals should be extended further. It is interesting to note that the BBC article reporting on the proposals also makes reference to a retired Officer who has spoken out about how the Police failed victims of the Oxford abuse gang. I also have contact with ex-GMP Officers who will similarly say that there were significant failings by the Police which contributed to the ongoing abuse in Rochdale.