Alarm sounded on child’s right to sue

Social services organisations have warned that allowing children to
sue professionals who wrongly accuse their carers or parents of
abuse could make social workers more cautious.

The fears follow last week’s High Court ruling by Master of the
Rolls Lord Phillips that parents could not sue for being wrongly
accused, but children taken into care could claim compensation for
the period of separation (news, page 7, 7 August).

The ruling related to three test cases including one against
Kirklees Council.

David Behan, president of the Association of Directors of Social
Services, said it was important that social workers did not feel
they were working with “hands tied behind their backs, in fear of

“There are extremely difficult judgements that have to be made by
all those working in child protection. It is important that staff
should be supported in their judgements.”

But Behan said it was “right and proper” that children should be
allowed to seek redress where mistakes had occurred.

Ian Johnston, director of the British Association of Social
Workers, said he was worried the decision could lead to
practitioners having more pressure put on them from managers to be
cautious in their decision making.

“They could be put under pressure from managers who will scrutinise
cases and make sure there is no risk of litigation for the
council,” he said.

Jennifer Bernard, children and young people director at children’s
charity NSPCC, said: “We realise it is distressing for parents and
carers involved in these cases, but child care professionals must
be allowed to carry out investigations without the fear of
reprisals or of being sued.”

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