Abuse Lawyer Says Lessons Need To Be Learnt By Authorities Across The Country
By Helen MacGregor
A woman subjected to a childhood of physical and sexual abuse has today called for an apology from the local council who repeatedly failed to take her into care despite being flagged as ‘at risk’ from just two months old.
Collette Elliot, 35, has been left battling depression and struggling to move on with her life after Birmingham City Council social services failed to permanently remove her in to care when she was younger.
This was despite concerns about her wellbeing being repeatedly flagged to the authorities by neighbours, health visitors and teachers, meaning she was forced to suffer years of horrific and sustained abuse.
After attempting suicide 12 times, failing to hold down a job due to severe depression and struggling to build relationships, the mum-of-four instructed expert abuse lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help her in a battle for justice against the council.
Birmingham City Council has now agreed to pay Collette a five-figure sum in settlement of her claim for damages for her pain and suffering, loss of earnings and ongoing psychotherapy but Collette says this means nothing without an apology for what she was forced to endure and proof that lessons have been learnt.
Luke Daniels from Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office successfully represented Collette. He said: “This was a complex case which involved us having to go back through the history to identify at which point Collette should have been removed in to care and what experiences could have been avoided during her childhood.
“We hope the settlement helps Collette to access the specialist counselling she needs to be able to come to terms with what happened and move forward with her life. However, we are disappointed that the council has failed to apologise to Collette and will continue to support her as she seeks to receive this.”
From birth, Collette was regularly in contact with social services after neighbours, teachers and hospital staff contacted the authorities concerned about injuries to her body, her poor attendance at school and the adults she was involved with.
After a period in foster care when she was very young, Birmingham City Council social services team made the decision that it was in her best interests to move back with her mum permanently and she remained there subjected to years of physical and emotional abuse until she left home at 18.
Collette, who now lives in Erdington, said: “My records show that at just two months old my health visitor noted that I was failing to thrive and I was then regularly admitted to hospital with infections and different injuries. The worst was when I fell out of the window because my mum had been out all night and I spent three weeks in hospital - she didn’t visit me once.
“I vaguely remember living with foster parents and feeling so much happier but for whatever reason, social services said it was in my best interests to live with my mum – they couldn’t have been more wrong.
“My childhood is filled with memories of being in pain from being hit, strange men coming into the house and taking advantage of me and barely being in school because my mum made no effort to get me there.
“I left home as soon as I was old enough but the mental scars from what had happened continued to ruin my life. I generally believed it was better if I died and tried to take my life 12 times. I couldn’t get a job because I didn’t have enough qualifications or had to be regularly off with depression and I seemed to be attracted to exactly the same type of men that my mum used to bring into the house.”
She added: “Once I fell pregnant with my children and found a decent man who I’ve now married, I realised I’d never get over the abuse until I had some sort of justice.
“Whilst the settlement from the council is a step forward, I won’t have any sort of closure until the council apologies for repeatedly letting me down and failing to protect me.
“Nothing will make up for what I was forced to endure but an apology would reassure me that lessons have been learnt by the council to prevent any other children suffering like I did.”
Luke Daniels at Irwin Mitchell added: “Sadly we continue to be contacted by individuals who feel that they have been failed by the authorities when they are most vulnerable and we hope that any failings identified in Collette’s case are learnt from by councils across the country.
“It is really important that spending on children’s services is protected, especially in the current economic climate. Lessons have to be learnt and the very highest standard of child protection and social care maintained in every authority’s area.”
Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to child abuse cases