In an extremely rare case, a local authority has been heavily criticised by a judge for its ‘chaotic approach’ to the care of a baby boy – and has been ordered to pay £16,000 in damages to him and his mother for violating their human rights.
Amidst concerns that the baby was at risk from his mother’s partner, he had been taken from his mother by social workers and placed in foster care when he was 15 days old. However, following a ‘catalogue of errors’, he was not placed permanently with his grandparents until nearly two years later.
The council’s ‘egregious failures’ included failing to take prompt action to protect the child, serially breaching court orders, delaying decisions regarding his future care and mismanaging the case, which had been passed to at least eight different social workers. It took three months for the council to decide that care proceedings were appropriate and a further five before they were actually launched.
It was evident that neither the social workers involved nor their managers had had the boy’s best interests at the forefront of their minds, nor had they done anything to promote his welfare. Describing the handling of the case as ‘dismal’, the judge found that the council had ‘seriously abused’ its powers.
Lawyers representing the little boy and his mother accused the council of breaching their human rights to a fair hearing and to respect for their family life. In the light of the judge’s findings, the council agreed to pay £12,000 in damages to the boy and £4,000 to his mother. It also paid £1,000 to the boy’s grandparents to help with his care.