Irwin Mitchell has been committed to using the compensation claims process imaginatively in order to get clients better as their cases progress. In personal injury claims generally, every lawyer at Irwin Mitchell will think about treatments and therapies, which will help the client whilst going through the claims process, recognising that early intervention and rehabilitation can make an important difference to the outcome.
The Child Abuse Team at Irwin Mitchell is equally committed to rehabilitation but sometimes difficulties are encountered in securing funding in child abuse cases where there is a dispute regarding liability, difficulties getting in touch with a minor client or there are disputes over time limits in cases. The Child Abuse Team often represents children still under the care of social services and so we may not know what interventions have already occurred or have been planned. A child may have new adoptive parents who will also need to be involved in any medical or rehabilitation decisions. In historic child abuse case, the client may already given up on securing effective therapeutic help, particularly where there has been an adverse reaction to therapy in the past.
We still aim to consider rehabilitation in every case. There are many ways of factoring this in but of course each case will be different.
Creative ideas for rehabilitation in a child abuse context include the following:
- In cases where there is no access to funding because of limitation or liability disputes, at Irwin Mitchell we have client liaison managers who can help clients access statutory services, help them manage the claims process for example getting them to and from any expert appointments where they need support and generally assist in the Claimant’s path to recovery. Our client liaison managers usually come from a nursing background and are very adept at securing services where no funds have been released in the course of the compensation claim.
- In cases where the local authority has ongoing duties to the client to provide medical and social care, the Child Abuse Team make sure that these duties are being fulfilled and where there is doubt, the cases can be referred to the Public Law Team who may launch a case on behalf of the client to secure those services. An example of this is where there has been a failure to put in place post adoption support where a child has been placed with new adoptive parents and the placement is liable to break down if professional help is not given.
- In cases where we have secured interim funding, consideration is given to appointing a case manager to assist the Claimant with housing, therapy, education and vocational training. We have appointed case managers from a social work background who are very used to helping clients access these types of services.
- When cases are about to settle and there are difficulties on causation or liability, consideration is often given to inviting the Defendant in the case to set up a rehabilitation fund to be drawn down on by the Claimant as and when necessary and to revert to the Defendant if not used.
- We always consider whether the Claimant would like a written or verbal apology on settlement. An apology can be important for the client’s healing and recovery. We have had a number of cases where successful reconciliation meetings have taken place without lawyers being present and these meetings have made a real difference to clients who have been failed by authorities. Reconciliation meetings are particularly important in faith cases, for example, claims against the church.
- When we settle cases it is always worth remembering that whilst the Claimant is entitled to anonymity, the Defendant is not. Confidentiality is not something that should extend to wrong doers. Again this is an important feature in the Claimant's recovery not to have to accept confidentiality agreements, having usually been silent about the abuse for many years.
Claimants in child abuse cases often find the litigation very traumatic and very difficult to manage. It is important that at each stage of the case, whether funding is available or not to think about the client’s recovery and rehabilitation and where possible to put in place some kind of rehabilitation programme and at the very least on settlement to ensure that the Claimant is able to put the litigation process behind them and to continue with their healing and recovery for the future.
Tracey Storey – Partner, London