A successful Wetherby businessman has spoken after winning a five figure sum in compensation from a council for the childhood abuse he experienced while in its care.
Richie Barlow (38) managing director of pet care and well-being specialist The Dog Walker, was placed in a council home by his mother at the age of nine following a troubled childhood.
Over four years at the home In Nottinghamshire, he became the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of other children.
Nottinghamshire County Council previously claimed it was not liable for a duty of care towards Richie as he was accommodated voluntarily under section 20 of the Children Act which, the council claimed, did not amount to an ‘assumption of responsibility’.
The council has now apologised to Richie and awarded him the compensation, stating: “My purpose in writing is to apologise to you for the abuse you experienced as a child whilst in our care. You entered into the care system at a young age, and you should have been safe from harm and it is clear that this was not the case and I am truly and sincerely sorry for that.”
Colin Pettigrew, Nottinghamshire County Council’s Corporate Director for children’s services said:
I am genuinely sorry for the abuse Mr Barlow suffered while he was a child in our care and I have written to him to apologise for that. He should have been safe from harm and this was not the case. This is a matter of deep regret and I would like to extend the offer of an apology in person when Covid restrictions means that is possible.
This council has worked to reduce the time taken to settle claims and we are committed to ensuring victims and survivors of sexual abuse have access to appropriate ongoing support services.
The safety and wellbeing of children and young people in our care is our utmost priority. I would urge anyone with information about alleged abuse, however long ago, to come forward. They will be listened to.
I’m speaking out to reassure any young person going through anything similar that there is hope. I have been fighting the council for years following my experiences whilst in their care and at times thought that I would never receive acknowledgment of what happened to me. Now, 25 years after my ordeal, I have finally received a letter from them apologising for their failure to protect me.
Many in my situation have either had a lifetime of criminality or sadly couldn’t live with themselves. I believe I’m quite a rarity for not only surviving but making such a fantastic life for myself.
Richie founded The Dog Walker in 2006 at the age of 23 with his life savings of just £500. He wanted to provide a service which was a kinder alternative to kennels and a better way of looking after much-loved family pets.
It can be bleak and unwelcoming when you come out of the care system. My experience at 16 was that I had little support and if it hadn’t been for a close friend who paid my bond and two months’ rent on accommodation I don’t know where I would be. It gave me the start I needed.
I count myself very fortunate. My business continues to go from strength to strength as many families have got new pets during the pandemic. As a business, we already contribute to charities in each of the communities within which we operate.
Now because of my own experiences, I am planning to establish a charitable foundation that will provide young adults leaving the care system with a bond for accommodation and two to three months’ rent to give them the stability to search for employment and kick start their new life.