It has been reported that there is a danger of child neglect cases being underestimated.
I recently settled a claim (subject to the court’s approval) for two siblings who suffered significant neglect at the hands of their parents.
I was instructed by the Official Solicitor to the Senior Court on behalf of the children to pursue claims against the social services. The children had sustained psychological injuries following social services’ failure to protect them from the neglect they suffered at the family home while living with their parents.
Social services first became involved with this family in 1987. Both the Child Protection Unit and the health visitor expressed concerns to them about the children’s two elder siblings. It appears that little or no action was taken and social services seem to have repeatedly closed their files.
The first child was four years old before he came to the attention of social services following a referral from the health visitor in May 1998. The information provided by the health visitor, school staff and social services’ own case records should have alerted social workers to the fact that my client was a child in need and at possible risk of harm. Social services persistently failed to act in response to the parents’ lack of engagement with both children for almost six years, despite much evidence to suggest that they were at risk of suffering due to the lack of care being provided to them. Neither child was considered to display age appropriate behaviour.
Both children were eventually removed from their parents’ care and placed with supportive foster carers.
I pursued civil claims on behalf of the claimants and obtained medical reports from a consultant adolescent psychiatrist. He concluded that both children had behavioural difficulties caused in part by the neglect they had suffered.
I issued court proceedings against the local authority on the basis that their social services had failed to protect the children from harm and had caused them to suffer psychological injuries. The local authority has now agreed to settle both claims subject to the approval of the court.