Child abuse solicitors at Irwin Mitchell successfully brought a claim against West Berkshire County Council on behalf of two brothers who were both neglected and abused following several years of instability.
Our clients, Michael and Robert, were born in 1990 and 1993 and lived with their parents. The family were known to social services from 1998 when the boys’ mother contacted them seeking assistance in looking after her children. Support and assistance was put in place, but the family failed to cooperate with these efforts and the file was subsequently closed.
Relations between our clients’ parents and extended family deteriorated, exposing the boys to domestic and emotional abuse in the home. They were frequently left at school or taken to their grandparents. Despite knowledge that the boys were suffering significant harm as a result of the continued instability in the family home, social services failed to initiate care proceedings.
Neglected & Abused
Social services placed the boys with a foster family for three years in 2003, but this placement broke down. They were then separated and placed with a succession of different foster families before being placed back with their grandparents. Both boys would later disclose that they had suffered physical abuse and neglect in that initial placement.
Along with the series of short term foster placements, the repeated patterns of neglect and abandonment had long-lasting and devastating effects on the boys’ emotional development and self esteem, which led to behavioural problems in adolescence.
How We Helped
We obtained a report from an expert social worker who considered that the local authority had failed to make adequate enquiries and assessments into the family and failed to get relevant opinions from other agencies. The expert also considered that the local authority continued to support the parents after it had become apparent that they weren’t reliable, and failed to apply reasonable child protection investigations and monitoring into the family.
The local authority denied liability and court proceedings were issued. A trial was arranged but West Berkshire County Council made an offer to settle both claims. Each client received compensation of £15,000.
Stephanie Pelling, a solicitor in Irwin Mitchell’s child abuse team, represented Michael and Robert. She said: "This case demonstrates the devastating long-term damage that can follow years of emotional abuse and neglect.
"Persistent efforts to rehabilitate a family took precedence over the needs of the children and even when cooperation with the parents had broken down irretrievably, plans to instigate care proceedings were deferred to allow further rehabilitative attempts.
"This inclination to place further resources into rehabilitation resulted in further neglect and harm of two vulnerable children.”
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