As the government appears to be busy with Brexit and other things, we thought it would be good to remind it that child welfare matters aren’t going away any time soon. Our latest Freedom Of Information Request asks for a breakdown of damages awarded to families, by council.
After coming across this archived post we wrote in 2012 predicting a surge in damages being paid out to families failed by local authorities, we decided to find out if these kinds of awards were on the rise. The request though, is unlikely to offer a definitive answer.
We already know that local authorities’ insurance companies have a vested interest in making complaints go away. The thinking is that the more complaints make it through, the more damages the council may have to pay, which effectively means the more money insurance companies have to shell out. As a result, insurance companies have an inbuilt incentive to prevent claims like these making it out into the open.
The nation’s Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse has also promised to look into the way insurance companies handle these kinds of claims and the extent of their conduct in obstructing investigations relating to child protection failings at councils across the country.
In what may be an attempt at shutting the floodgates and preventing councils from collapsing completely, Judges are now interpreting the law in an exclusive, rather than inclusive way, as this recent case shows. The justices in this case took the view that survivors would not be able to sue councils for abuse they suffered as children, if they had not been placed in the full-time care of the State. The impact of this ruling, for now, is likely to destroy a significant number of claims.
And whilst this FOI request looks at damages awarded, it won’t cover those claims in which compensation was not given. Cases where families have received an apology or have been promised a review of their case by a government body won’t be detailed unless the case resulted in the award of damages, further narrowing this request.
So, any information stemming from our latest Freedom Of Information request may not be the best indicator of how many families have been affected by council failings, but it will offer a picture of what the damages landscape looks like and how much the sector is costing the government whilst it runs on inadequate training and at almost zero capacity.
Will the data show a surge in payments? What kinds of payments will it reveal? And, most importantly, are some councils more prone to claims, and paying out compensation than others?
We will have to see.
In the meantime, here is a sample of cases which have been made public:
- Local Authority Sued For Foster Carer Abuse (2017)
- Children wrongly kept in care after ‘inexcusable’ failings (2017)
- Council apologises over unlawful removal of child from mother (2017)
- Council pays £1m damages for ‘shocking’ child abuse failings (2012)
- ‘Satanic abuse’ case families sue council for negligence (2006)