Family judge awards child £5k after his human rights were breached while in local authority care
A 10-year-old boy whose human rights were breached while he was in local authority care has been awarded £5,000 in damages.
A three-year delay by Worcestershire Council in revoking a placement order meant the child was unable to develop a relationship with his half siblings.
Child B was made the subject of a care order and placement order when he was just under six years old. Judge Rundell also authorised the local authority to withhold contact between mother and son.
The local authority’s view was that Child B should be placed for adoption. But given his behavioural difficulties a more realistic option was long term foster care.
In February 2012 the appropriate local authority panel formally agreed the change of plan to long-term foster care and his mother was informed of his changed status.
Judge Rundell said: “At that stage the local authority ought to have sought to revoke the placement order. Had they done so, the matter would have returned to court, a Guardian (in all probability the same Guardian who acted for B in the care proceedings) would have been appointed to protect his interests. His mother would have had the opportunity, if she was so minded, to seek contact with him.”
However, this did not happen and a succession of seven Looked After Children reviews took place before, in February 2015, the local authority presented an application for revocation. During the course of that three-year period the Independent Reviewing Officer ("IRO") took no adequate action to progress the matter.
The Judge added that the severity and length of the breach of human rights and the impact of the breach on the child were the most important factors.
“He lost the opportunity, during 2012 to 2015, to begin to form a relationship with them [his half siblings}. Again, who knows what might have occurred? However, there must, at least, have been a chance that he might have begun to develop a fulfilling sibling relationship with at least one of them; the three-year delay may well have damaged that prospect,” said Judge Rundell.
He decided to award Child B damages of £5,000 which he said was “just and appropriate” and ordered the local authority and IRO service to cover the costs of the care proceedings.