Extension of Vicarious Liability to Abuse by Foster Carer

Until very recently and, the case of Armes v Nottinghamshire County Council [2017] UKSC 60, there appeared to be, what many would consider, an imbalance in the law relating to when a Local Authority was liable for abuse suffered by a child that it had assumed responsibility for. Had the abuse been suffered at a children’s home the local authority would be liable however, prior to the above decision had the abuse taken place in a foster home the local authority would not.

The judgement in Armes puts this rather unjust position right and, extends the doctrine of vicarious liability to include foster care. Lord Reid handed down the judgement of the court which noted 5 key points: –

  • The responsibilities of the foster carer and the local authority could not be divided.
  • The activity of foster care was being carried out for the benefit of the local authority.
  • By placing a child in foster care the local authority creates the relationship between the child and foster carer and is responsible for exposing the child to potential risk.
  • The local authority exercised a considerable degree of control of the fostering situation that is not analogous to ordinary family life.
  • The local authority provided the only means for recourse in terms of compensation to abuse survivors.

Whilst the impact of the decision has yet to be fully appreciated it is understood the decision is being used as the basis for a claim against Glasgow City Council for abuse suffered by children in foster care.