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Thursday, 21 June 2018

Foster carer wins substantial damages for defamation and data breach from former agency

Written by Jan Colley

A foster carer who sued her former agency over allegations that prevented her from working has accepted substantial damages at the High Court.

Francine West brought proceedings for defamation, malicious falsehood and breach of the Data Protection Act against 24Seven Fostering Services.

Her solicitor, Dominic Garner, told Judge Richard Parkes in London on Thursday that, in April 2016, Ms West gave notice that she intended to resign and join a different agency.

Ms West claimed that, shortly after, the company published an anonymous letter to the London Borough of Haringey (pictured), which alleged she was guilty of harsh and rough treatment of the children under her care, was greedy, selfish and motivated solely by money, and had manipulated social workers for money.

She also claimed that the authority was told by phone that she was responsible for the complete breakdown in her relationship with her supervising social worker and that her behaviour was so irrational and inappropriate that children had to be removed from her care.

Mr Garner told the judge: "All of the allegations the claimant contends were published by the defendant were and are entirely false.

"In fact, the claimant had been regularly commended for the quality of her care and was entrusted by the defendant to look after up to four children at any one time, some of them with higher needs.

"She had not behaved unprofessionally, irrationally or inappropriately in her capacity as a foster carer, nor did she have selfish motives for being a carer."

He added that Ms West believed the allegations had damaged her personal and professional reputations.

She had been caused considerable hurt and distress and significant financial losses as, following publication, the local authority removed the children under her care and, without her consent, she was de-registered as a carer.

As a consequence, she was unable to foster between May 2016 and March 2017, and the sibling group of four children, aged between one and 12, under her care, was split into separate placements with other carers.

Mr Garner said it was Ms West's case that the allegations were published maliciously by the company with the dominant improper motive of damaging her standing as a fosterer.

He added that the company denied it was responsible for publishing the anonymous letter, making unjustified statements to individuals at the local authority or being maliciously motivated to do so.

Nevertheless, he said, it had agreed to settle the action by undertaking not to publish the allegations about which Ms West complained in the future, and to pay her "substantial" damages and her legal costs.

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