A High Court judge has ordered disclosure of social services records to the Official Solicitor who is investigating claims that social workers let down two children by delaying too long before removing them from the care of their drunken and violent parents.
Mr Justice Eady said that Somerset County Council’s social services department had ‘serious concerns’ from 1998 onwards about the children’s exposure to domestic violence between their parents. About 30 incidents involving the family were reported to the police over a three-year period before the children were taken into care in 2005.
They initially went to live with their grandmother but the sister eventually had to be separated from her brother who has endured ‘great difficulties generally’ and has not co-operated with those responsible for his welfare.
During care proceedings at Taunton County Court in 2008, the children's guardian expressed the opinion that the local authority had failed in its duty to protect them prior to their removal from the family home. In response to that, papers in the case were referred to the Official Solicitor who is investigating the possibility of launching a negligence claim against the council on the children's behalf.
Ordering the council to disclose the children’s social services files to the Official Solicitor, Mr Justice Eady said that the case in negligence passed the relevant test of having ‘a real prospect of success.’ He said that it is the children's case that social workers should have realised earlier that they were likely to suffer significant harm ‘as a result of the drunken and violent behaviour of their parents which they witnessed, it would appear, almost daily’.