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'Compo-crazy parents' survey sets scene for Tory conference

27 September 2010

A survey for the News of the World has accused "compo-crazy parents" of "milking" £2.25m a year from schools in compensation claims.

The survey, which received widespread coverage in other newspapers today, has appeared the week before the expected launch of Lord Young’s report on health and safety at the Conservative Party conference.

Lord Young is reported to be calling for immunity for schools from claims by children injured on trips or playing sport, unless there has been “reckless disregard” (see solicitorsjournal.com, 20 September 2010).

Based on freedom of information requests from councils, the survey claimed that one Surrey child won £29,000 after getting burnt by sitting on a school radiator.

In another case at a school in North Lincolnshire, a child received £4,500 after falling off an exercise bike.

Further cases mentioned in the report concerned a child who won £1,000 for a “glue-gun burn”, while the child’s solicitor received £7,250, and a £3,275 payment to a child hit in the eye by a foam javelin.

John Ransford, chief executive of the Local Government Association, said: “There is a real fear that the presence of ‘no win, no fee’ lawyers encourages some people to chance their arm, clogging up the system with spurious claims that cost a substantial amount of taxpayers’ money.

“The money spent investigating and handling compensation claims is valuable funding which could otherwise be spent on frontline services to help and support all residents.”

However, he added that where people had a legitimate claim for compensation it was important they were able to get the damages they were entitled to.

Richard Moorhead, professor of law at Cardiff University, said: “We are talking about seven pence out of every £1,000 spent on school education being spent on compensation for children with burns and other reasonably serious injuries.

“The number of claims and level of spending revealed by this survey appears to be miniscule. There is a more insidious lunacy than compensation culture - stoking a fear of something which doesn’t really exist.”

David Bott, vice-president of the APIL, said the public needed to understand that people could not sue for “any old accident”.

He went on: “Accidents happen – they happen especially to children, and the knocks and bumps they take is a part of growing up. But no child should be injured needlessly, and it is only when negligence is involved that a claim can be made.

“We all have responsibilities not to inflict needless injury on each other but if we ignore those responsibilities then the wrongdoer has a responsibility to help put the injured person’s life back on track.”

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