The Claimant’s background
Client J was born in 2000 and initially raised at home. Specialist abuse solicitor Jonathan Bridge was approached in 2017 to consider a possible claim against the Local Authority for their failings during Client J’s childhood.
Initially Client J was under the age of 18 and instruction was provided by the Official Solicitor. When she reached 18 years of age her capacity to instruct was established and she took over conduct of the case.
How the claim was established
As with many of the actions we deal, with Farleys became involved following an Order of the Family Court. When a Care Order was made the Court analysed Social Services’ conduct and suggested that our client may well have been let down by the Local Authority.
We obtained the care proceedings and Social Services records of Client J and our specialist team thoroughly reviewed the same. These identified various failings on the part of the Local Authority in particular in the use of a Section 20 agreement.
Section 20 agreements
We often find that Local Authorities use Section 20 agreements in place of applications for Care Orders. This in itself immediately gives rise to a damages claim under the Human Rights Act. During the currency of a Section 20 agreement nobody is exercising effective parental control for the Claimant. A Section 20 agreement is normally intended to give parents brief respite with the ultimate intention being that the child or children are returned to their care within a matter of days or at most weeks.
Unfortunately we regularly find Local Authorities using Section 20 agreements for many months, and even years which prevents any or any adequate care planning for the Claimant.
Sadly this happened in the case of Client J. She was known to the Local Authority for a number of years and was accommodated on Section 20 agreements and returned home to her parents. She was consistently beyond parental control by virtue of drug and alcohol problems, criminal behaviours, high risk of sexual exploitation and association with sex offenders and absconding behaviours. Despite all of these issues the Local Authority used a Section 20 agreement to accommodate her rather than applying for a Care Order.
Client J therefore brought an action against the Local Authority alleging that they had failed. It was clear that her parents were unable to cope with her and that a Care Order was needed. Instead Local Authority used Section 20 agreements repeatedly to remove her, and place her back with her parents ultimately allowing her neglect and abuse to continue.
This had a significant impact upon Client J. She should have been removed and placed in a secure foster placement under the auspices of a Care Order where she would have received good reparative parenting. Instead she continued to engage in risk taking, regularly absconding and engaging in a cycle of alcohol/drug use and sexual exploitation.
Achieving a successful outcome for our client
Farleys acted on behalf of Client J for over three years. Liability was not admitted by the Defendants and a considerable amount of work had to be carried out in reviewing all relevant records and persuading the Defendants to put forward settlement proposals. Initially an offer of £20,000 was put forward. Following further negotiation, the Defendants were prepared to increase and eventually settle the claim by way of a payment to Client J of £30,000 in relation to their failings during her childhood.