Compensation Claims Against Social Services

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How To Claim Compensation Against Social Services For Sexual Abuse?

By Danielle Jordan. Last Updated 17th June 2024. In this guide we focus on making claims against social services when they have caused you harm through negligent behaviour. Please read on to find out about the process of suing social services. We’ll also look at potential compensation amounts for cases won against social services.

In the United Kingdom, Social Services for children work with a number of different agencies in order to provide support for children who are placed up for adoption within families, children who may need looking after for any reason, those who might be suffering abuse, neglect or be in need of protection, as well as families where children are assessed as being in need.

When a referral is made to Social Services, they are obligated to investigate the situation to ensure that the children involved are safe and not in harm’s way. Harm is described as the ill-treatment or the impairment of development or health including, for instance, impairment suffered from hearing or seeing another person being ill-treated. Ill-treatment includes sexual abuse as well as other forms of ill-treatment, which are not always physical. Health means both mental and physical health. And, development means behavioural, social, emotional, intellectual and physical development.

There have unfortunately been some examples of social services failures over the years and some of these have led to compensation cases won against social services. Some examples of their negligence have received extensive coverage from mainstream news sources. One of the most famous cases in the UK was the death of “Baby P” in 2007. Baby P, whose real name was Peter Connelly, died of homicide at the age of 17 months old in the property he shared with his mother and her boyfriend.

The baby experienced 50 different injuries, including a broken back, which was allegedly missed by his doctor. This resulted in five people being sacked at Haringey Council Children’s Services, including the head of the department. A number of damning enquiries revealed that 60 opportunities were missed to save baby P.

Other famous cases that resulted in children dying due to Social Services being inadequate in their investigations include the death of two-year-old Demi Leigh Mahon in Manchester, nine-year old David Stocker from Romford who died of a salt overdose fed by his mother, and eight-year-old Victoria Climbie who was starved to death after prolonged abuse at the hands of her guardians in London.

While there are lots of amazing social work that is being carried out across the country, there is no denying that there has also been a number of significant failings. However, the problem is that a lot of people think that Social Services are above the law and there is nothing they can do if they’ve been the victim of negligent conduct.

This could not be further from the truth. If you have been the victim of negligent social services, then you have an extremely high chance of being eligible for child abuse compensation and it is important that you get the payout you deserve. Read on to discover everything you need to know about suing social services.

In the meantime, you can get in touch with us with any issues you may have regarding your claim.

  • You can call us on 0800 073 8804
  • See if you have a claim online by filling out the form on our website
  • Our advisors are also available to chat to in realtime using the pop-up window in the bottom right corner

You can check out this quick video below which summarises our guide:

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Who Are Social Services?

Before we look at how to make claims against social services, let’s first learn a little more about this organisation.

In the UK, social services have a statutory obligation to promote the welfare and safeguard the wellbeing of children that are vulnerable. Social services can also provide a broad selection of services to children and their parents. A lot of families feel worried and anxious when social services get involved because of experiences they may have heard from other people because they are frightened that they will lose their children. There are a number of reasons social services would take a child, but this is certainly not always the outcome, as more often Social Services are there to help you.

There are a number of different reasons for social services to get involved with children/parent/ guardian relationships. This includes the following:

  • Help families determine any issues that are impacting the children and to guide them to the correct support and services that are available in the community
  • If there is concerns that a child has suffered an injury that was not an accident
  • When a child has been taken into care after the police have intervened on an emergency basis or there has been a court order
  • The parent has requested that the child is placed in residential care or foster care on a temporary basis as an emergency to assist them with challenging behaviour or to give them a planned break or a number of short breaks due to stress
  • When there are concerns relating to alcohol and drugs
  • If there has been child protection issued for the child, for example, including cases where adults have been engaged in violence and this could result in the child being harmed
  • A GP or teacher has made a referral or request
  • A family has requested that the Social Services provide family support services at times of stress

If your child is deemed in need of help or at risk, your local government Social Services department have a duty to explore the situation to determine what action should be taken to ensure the child is safe and well. You should work alongside the Social Services as best as you can. While you may feel anxious and worried if you are contacted by Social Services, the best thing to do is not panic. Unless there are reasons otherwise, the Social Services will always write to you and let you know that an initial assessment is being conducted. This will take place within a specific number of days and in most cases, this will result in them giving you support and any other services that you require.

Please read on for more information about suing social services.

What Can Social Services Do?

We often get asked what social services can and can’t do. For example, you may have questions such as can social services stop contact without a court order?

In short, Social Services can provide support for families. There are different departments to support varying needs. For example, there are social care services for addiction, mental illness, abuse and much more.

Social Services are also well within their right to carry out a child protection investigation if they feel that this is necessary. This is known as a Section 47 enquiry. This means that they will conduct a complete investigation to make sure that the child is receiving the correct level of care and that he or she is not being abused or neglected. In order to carry out this investigation, they will conduct a number of interviews with you, and they are allowed to contact other professionals, including your child’s GP and school.

A mother holds her daughter.

What Can’t Social Services Do?

Can Social Services take my child away? What are my rights against social services? These are two questions we’ll aim to answer in this section.

A lot of people worry that social services are going to take away their children. While they are allowed to do this, they can technically only legally do so if they have reason to believe the child is at harm. If your child has been taken away, you can receive legal advice on how to win your child back from Social Services.

What To Do If Social Services Are Wrong?

If you feel like social services have it wrong, you can file an official complaint. Should you wish to claim against social services for the harm they’ve caused you or were vicariously liable for, copies of an official complaint could be submitted with your evidence.

A complaint sent in via email or letter can help show that social services were aware of the issue. Additionally, if they respond, you can also submit a copy of their response if you are seeking compensation.

If you would like to discuss what evidence could be helpful in a claim against social services, speak to a member of the advisory team.

What Types Of Claims Can You Make Against Social Services?

Some of the most common reasons for making claims against social services social workers are as follows:

  • Abuse by foster carers
  • Removal of children without legal permission
  • Negligence of social services
  • Abuse while in care
  • Abuse claims against a social worker

If you have experienced any of these situations or you want to make a claim against social services for any other reason, please get in touch.

Can I Claim Against Social Services For Sexual Or Historic Abuse?

Yes, it’s possible to claim against social services for sexual abuse, which could be historic in nature. Below, we explain how these claims work.

Care Home Abuse

The simple answer to this question is; yes. There have been a number of cases of child abuse in care homes, and we will discuss one of the high-profile cases later in this guide so you can better understand the process of suing social services for care home negligence.

If you or someone you love has been the victim of abuse in a care home, this can be exceptionally traumatic to come to terms with. Our panel of expert solicitors who take on Social Services have worked on many cases like this before. If you have a valid claim, they will work as hard as they can to get you the compensation that you deserve.

For more information on how to make claims against social services call our team.

Foster Care Abuse

Yes, if you have been abused at the hands of your foster parents, you could be entitled to compensation. You may also be entitled to a payout if Social Services failed to recognise the signs of abuse. The Human Rights Act 1998 was put in place to ensure that everyone was treated equally. This includes children in care. So, even social services must abide by these rules. Suing social services could be the very step you need to take if you feel a child’s human rights have been violated or ignored.

Foster parents are in the ultimate position of trust, and when they abuse this, it is vital that they are brought to justice. We have helped many children who have been abused to launch claims against their foster parents, so they can try to move on with their lives. Call us today for more information on child abuse social services claims and how to fight social services and win.

Historic Abuse

In standard compensation claims, you do not only have three years to make a negligence claim against Social Services. You can make a claim for historical sexual abuse that happened many years ago, so please do not fear that you have left it too late to claim.

Case Study: Shirley Oaks

At this point in our guide to making claims against social services, we’re going to look at a horrific high-profile case study that could help illustrate why these types of claims may be made.

There have been a number of high-profile child abuse claims in the news, many of which involve instances where Social Services have failed. Shirley Oaks is undoubtedly one of the most prolific cases and ex-residents were granted compensation amounts of around £10,000 each as a small gesture for the suffering that they were so heinously subjected to.

Shirley Oaks is an ex-network of children’s homes in South London. A report was conducted covering a period from the 1950s until 1983 when the homes were closed. It concluded that there were at least 60 active abusers working within the network, carrying out what has been described as ‘industrial scale’ abuse.

Not only did this cause irreparable damage to the countless victims within the care system but there were also numerous deaths that have now been linked to Shirley Oaks. These were apparent ‘suicides’ that are now known to have been conducted by the perpetrators in attempts to cover up their sickening abuse from getting out.

It remains one of the most horrific and shocking abuse cases in history. Since then, Lambeth Council has paid around £100 million to former residents, irrespective of whether or not they were abused, with those who suffered the abuse first-hand receiving bigger payouts for obvious reasons.

What Evidence Is Needed For Claims Against Social Services?

This guide has answered questions such as “what are my rights against social services?” by highlighting what social workers can and can’t do. If you do want to claim against the social services, it’s important that you have evidence showing how their negligent actions have caused you or your children harm.

Given the type of damages you want to claim for, potential evidence could include:

  • Photographic evidence of any injuries.
  • Video evidence of abuse. This could include, for instance, CCTV footage if any is available.
  • Correspondence with the Social Services.
  • Notes from you detailing the series of events.
  • Witness statements. If, for instance, you or your child has suffered some form of abuse, statements from witnesses can clarify what occurred.
  • Police reports. If some of this abuse has been reported to the police, these reports can help clarify what was reported and when. They could also show what, if anything, has been done since.

To learn more about the claims process or to see if you can claim, please contact us at a time that suits you. Our solicitors know how a claim against social services in court could progress and can help you build a case.

If your sexual abuse claim against social services is successful you could receive up to two heads of loss: general damages and special damages.

How Is Compensation Calculated When You Sue Social Services?

If you successfully sue social services, your settlement could consist of two heads of claim: general and special damages.

General damages compensate for the physical pain and mental suffering caused by the sexual abuse. When assigning value to personal injury claims, legal professionals may refer to the Judicial College Guidelines (JCG). This document lists guideline compensation brackets for different types of injuries and harm.

In our table below, we look at a few figures found in the 17th edition of the JCG. As every claim is different, it is only provided as guidance. Additionally, the top row was not taken from the JCG but provided to show you how you could be compensated for the harm suffered plus related expenses.

Injury TypeSeverityCompensation Guideline
Very Serious Harm and Special DamagesVery SevereUp to £250,000+
Sexual/Physical AbuseSevere (a)£109,830 to £183,050
Sexual/Physical AbuseModerately Severe (b)£54,920 to £109,830
Sexual/Physical AbuseModerate (c)£25,100 to £54,920
Sexual/Physical AbuseLess Severe (d)£11,870 to £25,100
General Psychiatric DamageSevere (a)£66,920 to £141,240
General Psychiatric DamageModerately Severe (b)£23,270 to £66,920
General Psychiatric DamageModerate (c)£7,150 to £23,270
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)Severe (a)£73,050 to £122,850
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)Moderately Severe (b)£28,250 to £73,050

Furthermore, when suing social services, you could receive compensation for the financial losses caused by the abuse you suffered. This can be awarded as part of your settlement under special damages. Some of the losses you might be able to recover as part of your claim include:

You should submit proof of your costs, such as invoices and payslips.

Our advisors can help answer your question, ‘Can you sue social services for sexual abuse?’. In addition to a free case assessment, they can value your claim.

Criminal Injury Claims

You may make your claim through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) instead. The CICA award compensation in certain criminal injury claims. This is different to a traditional personal injury claim. Compensation tariffs for a claim through the CICA can be found in the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2012. The tariffs are different than the figures found in the JCG. Additionally, the CICA have specific claiming criteria that needs to be met.

When compensation is being calculated, there are often a few different figures to consider. The one universal to most claims is known as general damages. This is the sum that is awarded to you due to both the physical pain and the mental suffering caused by the injuries associated with the accident or incident.

A solicitor researches a claim against social services.

Why Choose Legal Expert For Claims Against Social Services?

If you suffered abuse due to social services negligence and would like to make a claim, No Win No Fee solicitors that deal with social services could support you through the legal process. Their services could be provided under a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA).

When suing social services, solicitors that offer a No Win No Fee arrangement typically won’t ask you to pay an upfront solicitor’s fee. If your claim is successful, a success fee will be taken from your award. The law limits this amount. Should your solicitor for your social services claim fail to secure compensation, you usually won’t be asked to pay for their legal services.

Our advisors can answer your questions about claiming against social services. Should your claim seem eligible you could be put in touch with our solicitors that deal with social services claims. To get in touch:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I take legal action against social services?

Providing social services failed to uphold their legal duty of care, leading you or a loved one to suffer as a result. Please get in touch today to learn more about your rights.

What is classed as neglect by social services?

According to the NSPCC, neglect is an ongoing failure to meet a child’s most basic needs. Neglect is considered the most common form of child abuse, by which they may be left hungry, dirty or without necessary clothing, housing or supervision.

Useful Links

Litigation Friends

Find out about the process of appointing another adult to pursue a claim on the behalf of someone else.

Government Statistics

This link takes you to the UK Government website where you will find statistics regarding the number of children in the UK that are under local authority care.

You may also be interested in some of our other guides on criminal injury compensation claims:

We also have some other guides on sexual abuse compensation claims that you may find useful:


We hope our guide on how to make claims against social services has been useful to you. If you have any enquiries about matters related to this subject, such as hiring solicitors that can sue social services, then you can contact our team of advisors on the phone or online using the contact details found in this guide.

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    • Patrick Mallon

      Patrick is a Grade A solicitor having qualified in 2005. He's an an expert in accident at work and public liability claims and is currently our head of the EL/PL department. Get in touch today for free to see how we can help you.

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