West Sussex County Council has been forced to pay damages to a senior child care officer after failing to protect her from physical and mental injury.  The claim was brought with the assistance of UNISON and Thompsons Solicitors.

Ms Glynda Robinson, 60, who now lives in Norfolk, worked at the Greenacre Childrens Unit in Crawley, West Sussex, and on the 6th of February 2003 was physically assaulted by a teenager.  This was the final straw for Glynda who previously had been subjected to several other violent incidents and constant verbal abuse.

Every other member of staff in the unit had been assaulted by the teenager before the attack on Glynda.  Despite frequent incidences of violence towards staff, and repeated written and verbal requests by staff to senior management, no steps were taken to improve the situation. 

Taking advice from her union, UNISON, Glynda instructed Thompsons Solicitors to take up her case.

Sarah McGreal, UNISON Regional Officer, said: “Ms Robinson needed support and that was provided through her union.  Employers cannot simply place people in positions, allow circumstances to change and then ignore their requests for proper assistance.”

Risk of Injury

Commenting, Ms Robinson’s solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors, Gerard Stilliard, said: “It was clear that Ms Robinson had been subjected to a foreseeable risk of injury.  From 2000 onwards, children admitted to the centre were all highly disturbed, often with violent behaviour and substance abuse problems. They were wholly unsuited to a residential unit of this type. Ms Robinson had not received sufficient control and restraint training.  As a result of the attack, she subsequently suffered post traumatic disorder as well as the loss of hair and minor physical injury.  She was medically retired.”

Liability was denied by the Council and Thompsons Solicitors were forced to issue court proceedings.  The Council never formally admitted liability but eventually entered into negotiations.  The amount of compensation is undisclosed.

Glynda Robinson said: “A job that was a pleasure to go to gradually turned into my worst nightmare.  Members of staff were isolated from each other which made it all the more dangerous.  In the end I was fearful for my life, and if it hadn’t been for the assistance of one of those young people I would have ended up with a broken bottle in my back.  Thankfully I was able to speak with my UNISON union representative who was there when I desperately needed support.”