When a child or an adult suffers a life-changing injury, a family can suddenly and unexpectedly be thrown into a life of round-the-clock care and support. Although nothing can prepare them for this dramatic change to their lives, the ability to access information, support and professional care can provide desperately needed respite and reassurance.
The clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches Cooper has extensive expertise in working with parents of children brain-damaged at birth due to midwifery, obstetric or neonatal errors. The clinical negligence claims that arise concentrate initially on establishing what happened before, during and shortly after birth to determine whether the child’s injuries could, on the balance of probabilities, have been avoided or minimised with a better standard of medical care.
If, with the help of expert evidence, a claim is established, the second part of the investigation focuses on what the child’s future is likely to hold and what care and support they will need to live as independently as possible for the rest of their life. A big part of that is the setting up of a personalised professional care package.
Although the parents with whom we work are absolutely devoted to trying to give their child the best possible care, the stress of caring for a brain-damaged child can affect their own physical and mental health. It is vital that a parent can sometimes take a much-needed break from a caring role but this can be almost impossible without the support of a professional care package.
Even when parents believe that they can fulfil their child’s care needs and may initially be reluctant to have professional carers come into the home, the difference it makes to the whole family’s life, including siblings, is extraordinary. In some situations, the care required has a clinical, psychological or educational element that can only be fulfilled by a professional carer.
Parent carers can benefit from various support sources including financial support such as state benefits and income support if they have given up work to care for their child; practical support for needs assessments, accessing residential care, coming out of hospital and planning for emergencies; and support to help them access respite care to enable them to take a break.
Our team can help parents to claim and facilitate these sources of support.
When planning the professional care that the child will need for life, we obtain expert care and case management advice to consider the professional care required each day itself and the benefits of having a case manager and a care team leader. Their role is to draw up rotas for the carers each week, deal with minor situations and liaise with the case manager, so that all the child’s care and day-to-day needs are met seamlessly in a joined-up manner.
When we assess the care element of a birth injury claim, we look at the past care to date including what that has involved, who has provided it and what time it has taken over and above the care that a fully-abled child requires in any event, the present situation, the daily routine and all of the child’s future family and professional care needs.
All of that care is costed at appropriate hourly rates, depending on the nature of the care, the time of day or week it is provided and who provided it. We can forecast what care and case management will cost in future years for the child’s life expectancy, taking into account inflation and likely changes in hourly rates of pay for carers and case managers.
The cost of professional care is calculated allowing for a notional 60 weeks per year to cover the carers’ holiday and sickness pay together with the costs of Employer’s National Insurance (ERNIC) and allowances for food and related expenses, recruitment advertising, insurance, training, pension contribution and payroll.
We also build in the cost of a case manager to recruit and train carers and to set up and oversee the child’s care regime. This all ensures that the true cost of professional care for the child’s lifetime is thoroughly considered and claimed to allow the child and their family to access all the care and support required.
Alison Johnson, partner at Penningtons Manches Cooper, says: “Settlements of birth injury claims are life-changing, not just for the child but for the whole family and the child’s wider support network. The greatest considerations to ensuring that a disabled child can live as independently and happily as possible are that the child’s accommodation and care needs are met.
“A careful analytical investigation of what those care and case management needs are and will be in the future is essential. Getting it right means that parents, who may have become 24-hour carers, can reclaim some respite and siblings can live their own lives unburdened of the likely responsibility of caring for their disabled brother or sister in the future. Most importantly, there is the reassurance that the injured person will always have the care and support he or she needs for life, even when parents are no longer able or around to provide it.”