Supreme Court foster child abuse decision ‘could to lead to more claims’

23 Oct 17

A Supreme Court decision over a foster child abuse case could lead to an increased number of claims against councils, the Law Society has warned.

On Wednesday last week a court found Nottinghamshire County Council “vicariously liable” for the sexual and physical abuse suffered by Natasha Armes while in foster care.

It said the council would face damages.

The Law Society, which represents people working in the legal profession, described the decision as “significant” and that “could potentially result in an increase in the number of claims pursued against local authorities”.

A spokesperson for the Law Society said: “While these cases by their very nature are complicated, local authorities will be alarmed at the implications of the imposition of vicarious liability for the abuse by the foster parents in the absence of any finding of negligence.

“Local authorities will be considering what steps they can take to prevent anything similar happening in their foster care placements, which will require redirection of resources.”

Alison Michalska, president of the ADCS, said foster carers were the frontline of looking after vulnerable children and stressed that local authorities take child services as their highest priority.

That is why foster carers must undergo a comprehensive application and assessment process and receive regular training and supervision, she explained.

“Standards of recruitment and training of foster carers have been strengthened and are now much tougher than they were 30 years ago in order to better safeguard children and young people, ” Michalska said.

She said cases like the Nottinghamshire case are “thankfully rare” but it reinforces the need for rigour when recruiting carers for vulnerable children and young people.

Michalska added: “Whilst this judgment found no fault with social work practice or the practice of Nottinghamshire County Council it has far-reaching consequences for all local authorities - we will need time to examine it in detail to better understand the implications.”

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