Thank you to Jerry Lonsdale for alerting us to this case, which is important in the first instance because of the family’s pain which is highlighted in the judgment, of losing a daughter and due to the mother’s great suffering, and in the second instance, because it tackles the very interesting and less discussed area of duties of care owed to families, in relation to Local Authorities. The trial took place on 4th – 7th June 2013 and Jerry, a highly accomplished lay advocate, was the mother’s McKenzie Friend.
The case is about a woman who, whilst still a toddler, was removed from her biological parents and taken into care by the Local Authority, where she remained until she was 18, and then had a child of her own. That child was then taken away from her on the grounds that she was unable to care for her child, due to psychological problems. The mother brought an action against the Local Authority, claiming that had she been removed earlier from her biological parents, without the delay that exposed her to further emotional and physical abuse, and given the support she needed as a child, she would not have the mental health issues she has now, and that therefore the Local Authority are to blame for her losing her own daughter through forced adoption. In other words, had it not been for the Local Authority’s delay during her own adoption and subsequent lack of support after it, she would not have had to give up her daughter for adoption. The Local Authority denied a breach of duty, as well as causation and damage.
The judgment delivered by Amanda Yip, QC is a sensitive and considered one and a must-read for anyone fascinated by how duty of care is measured and perhaps rather more controversially, how difficult social work is.