Peter Garsden, a partner at the firm, said that following the conclusion of the legal action many abuse and negligence cases against local authorities that were put on hold pending a decision would now be able to progress - providing ‘much comfort’ to the victims, as well as clarity for local authorities with regards their duty of care.
“This is a ground-breaking decision that has served to clarify the law as far as the duty of care that social workers have towards young people and children who are not necessarily in a care institution, but are known to be at risk.
Whilst this case has been ongoing many other cases were put on hold, and there were grave concerns that the law could regress significantly – taking us back to an era when social workers were given exemption from blame, and leaving victims with little reassurance that everything possible was being done to protect them from harm.
Thankfully the law has been restored to what it was and there is now liability for negligence on the part of Social Workers and others working for the Local Authority in the childcare context.”
The decision follows a UK Supreme Court hearing which took place last July relating to a case in which Poole Borough Council was accused of failing to protect two children in the care of their mother from the antisocial behaviour of neighbours; whilst also putting the role of all Councils in the protection of those living within its geographic footprint under scrutiny.
Simpson Millar represented Article 39 and The Care Leavers’ Association during the hearing; both of which acted as interveners in the case amidst concerns about the wider ramifications of local authorities not being held accountable for a failure to protect.
The charities felt the need to intervene in the case in order to draw attention to the ‘terrible impact’ that abuse can have on children; claiming that it was ‘incomprehensible’ that a local authority would not face the legal consequences for not doing enough to prevent abuse and neglect to young people in care.
Carolyne Willow, Director at Article 39 – a charity that fights for the rights of children and young people who live in children’s homes, prisons and other institutions - said:
“We are incredibly relieved that the Supreme Court has reinstated the potential for children and young people to bring negligence claims against local authorities who have failed to protect them from harm.
We are particularly concerned about the continuing scandals of mistreatment in child prisons and local authorities’ failures to take robust, protective action.”