A Supreme Court ruling which has overturned previous precedent and made history, will now allow children abused whilst in foster care to sue the local authorities that placed them.
Those who have been abused, as well as child rights campaigners all over the country who have fought tirelessly to establish this duty of care which should have been acknowledged a long time ago, will be delighted by the ruling.
The case which came before the Supreme Court saw Natasha Armes, now 40, from Nottingham, win against Nottinghamshire County Council after Supreme Court justices ruled by a majority of four-to-one that it was liable for abuse she suffered as a child 30 years ago.
The Supreme Court justices found the local authority was vicariously liable for the abuse Natasha suffered at the hands of her foster parents, but bizarrely, concluded that the council was not negligent in choosing or supervising them, even though the local authority had recruited, selected and trained the foster parents, paid for their expenses and supervised the fostering.
Nevertheless, the decision now means that councils can be held liable for abuse committed by foster carers, whether recent or non recent.
The key part of the judgment connects foster parents with the local authority:
“Although the picture presented is not without complexity, nevertheless when considered as a whole it points toward the conclusion that the foster parents provided care to the child as an integral part of the local authority’s organisation of its child care services.”
An incredibly encouraging development, and hats off to the justices involved in this case, who had the courage to do what needed to be done. We can guess which judges were involved.
The legal relatiosnhip between local authorities and foster carers was always there. Today, the law has closed a terrible loophole that claimed the lives of far too many children, and took the childhoods of countless more. We very much hope local authorities will now be looking at their recruiting procedures and finding ways to make them much, much more secure.
You can read the judgment and press summary here.