In a widely documented case now being heard in the Supreme Court, NA v Nottinghamshire County Council, the Court of Appeal held that a local authority could not be held vicariously liable for wrongful acts committed by a foster parent.
While local authorities have traditionally been held vicariously liable for wrongful acts committed by staff in care homes, this liability had not yet been extended to abuse by foster parents. This has been upheld by the Court of Appeal despite the fact that care homes are often operated very similarly to foster homes, with multiple children being housed under the same roof with paid 'parents' looking after them.
The court's reasoning was that foster parents do not have a relationship 'akin to employment' with the local authorities who select them, so the local authorities cannot be held vicariously liable for their acts. But ultimately, the goal of both foster homes and care homes is the same; to care for children and protect them from dangerous or harmful situations. While foster parents are not technically employees, they are selected to care for children and paid for this responsibility, just like staff in care homes. Therefore, it should be the responsibility of local authorities to take care when placing children with foster parents, and to take responsibility when abuse occurs.
We hope the Supreme Court will rule in favour of the claimant in NA and hold the proper authorities liable, so that those who were harmed by the very people supposed to be protecting them are able to seek justice.