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Ahuse in care can be defined as the abuse of power of a care worker, or other employee of a Public Body who is in a position of responsibility. Abuse in care also includes abuse by foster parents where the Local Authority delegate care to foster parents whether full time or temporary. There are also cases where the Local Authority has failed to protect a child from abuse by not being as attentive or dutiful as is reasonable, and exposed a child to an abusive parent where their abusive nature is know yet ignored.

The abuse can include:-

  • Abuse of a child in care wherever he/she resides. This can be in aresidential care home or care can be delegated to a home run by a religious organisation or charity such as Barnados. There are some privately run homes and small registered homes which only accomodate a few children or specialist services for disabled/vulnerable adults.
  • Failure to care properly for a child either at risk or in care
    • When a complaint is made about the neglect of a child a local authority is obliged to carry out an investigation and at some stage may "assume responsibility". A point comes whereby it becomes obvious that a referral into care is necessary, because, for example, abuse has taken place. As long as a duty of care can be established the local authority that does not protect a child from abuse can be held liable for damage caused.
    • Once a care order is made by a Court the local authority, becomes a “corporate parent”.  It then owes the same duty of care to the child as its own parent who loses parental responsibility. If a child is being abused, and the Local Authority do not remove it when they should have done so, then it is sometimes possible to make a claim in negligence against them for the abuse which would not have taken place, had the Local Authority acted when they should have done so.
    • Children are often placed on Guardianship Orders to Foster parents where the natural parent agrees to the voluntary placing of their child in care under the Local Authority's duty to provide accommodation. In such circumstances the parent retains parental responsibility. One has to show that this amounts to an "assumption of responsibility".
    • There are then contentious cases where a complaint is made that a child is at risk but no care order has been made. The Local Authority are accused of not doing enough to put the child in care and abuse continues at home. Even where a risk assessment results in the child being placed on the "at risk" register arguments can ensue as to whether the Local Authority has "assumed responsibility".
    • Cases are sometimes referred by Care Proceeding Judges to the Official Solicitor, who, sometimes, can ask solicitors, such as ourselves, to take legal action on its behalf.
  • The wrongful use of power by a Local Authority in the way they choose welfare services for members of the community. The placement of a disabled adult in the wrong setting for their needs could come under this category.

This is a highly complex area of law. The above summary does not constitute legal advice. Every case is different, and before advising we would have to take a detailed history of what happened before coming to any conclusion.


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