Foster carer settles anonymous letter claim

24Seven Fostering pays substantial damages and costs and gives undertaking

On 21 June 2018 a statement in open court was read on behalf of foster carer, Francine West, known as Paris, to settle a libel and malicious falsehood claim brought by her against 24Seven Fostering Services.

Dominic Garner of Carter-Ruck told His Honour Judge Parkes QC, sitting in the High Court, that, on a date unknown between 19 and 26 April 2016, the London Borough of Haringey was sent an anonymous letter alleging that Ms West, a foster carer registered as a carer with the borough and employed by 24Seven Fostering Services, was guilty of very harsh treatment of the children in her care; that she was greedy and selfish, being motivated solely for money and not because she cared for or was concerned about the children she looked after; and that she had manipulated social workers for money, thereby obtaining money to which she was not entitled.

In the same period, on or around 3 or 4 May 2016, a director of the Defendant telephoned Haringey and alleged that Ms West was responsible for the complete breakdown in her relationship with 24Seven, such that the four young children she cared for had to be removed from her care, which is what occurred.

As Mr Garner told the court, “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 went on, “The Claimant believes that these allegations have damaged her personal and professional reputations. She has been caused considerable hurt and distress.  It is also her case that she has been caused significant financial losses as, following publication, the local authority removed the children under her care and, without her consent, she was deregistered as a carer, a consequence of which was that she was unable to foster for a period of some 10 months, between May 2016 and March 2017.  In that period, the sibling group of 4 children that had been under the Claimant’s care, aged between 1 year and 12 years, was split into separate foster placements with other carers.  Indeed, it is the Claimant’s case that the allegations about her were published maliciously by the Defendant with the dominant improper motive of damaging her standing as a fosterer.

By its Defence, signed with a Statement of Truth, the Defendant denied it was responsible for publishing the anonymous letter. It also denied making unjustified statements to individuals at the local authority or being maliciously motivated to do so.  Nevertheless, almost 11 months after it was notified of the Claimant’s claim, the Defendant has now agreed to settle this action in its entirety.  It has given its undertaking to the Court, through its director Mr Ahmad, not to publish the allegations about which the Claimant complains in the future.  It has also agreed to pay the Claimant substantial damages, together with her legal costs.”

Ms West first contacted 5RB directly in February 2017 and instructed Adam Speker. Adam was willing to act on a conditional fee agreement for Ms West but considered that she needed to have solicitors on board and approached Nigel Tait of Carter-Ruck. Nigel agreed to take on Ms West’s case on a conditional fee agreement.