Thursday, 29 September 2011

Green Light for Compensation to Abused Swedish Foster Care Children

Late yesterday evening, the responsible minister, Maria Larsson, announced (here, here, here, here, here) that the victims of systematic abuses and neglect of the Swedish foster care system over many decades will, after all, receive compensation. The decision followed an agreement with the political opposition, after a former decision not to compensate had received massive criticism. My posts on that are here and here.

As the minister notes, the manner of compensation will be different than usual, e.g., by every victim being awarded a standard sum (250 000 Swedish kronor ≈ € 25 000). To some readers, the sums may look modest, but they are not in the Swedish legal tradition on monetary compensation for personal harm. Maria Larsson also notes that the decision is unique in that the state in this way is taking responsibility for activities run by local county authorities. However, at the same time, the solution is not very different from the one applied regarding compensation to victims of the forced sterilisation policy, where the notion of making a compensation that is proportional to each individual harm was rightly abandoned in view of the fact that such a requirement would make a compensation scheme practically impossible. True, such a solution departs somewhat from normal notions of justice in the area of compensating victims of unjust harm. However, as I see it, it errs on the right side, since it means that all victims receive a compensation rather than no one.

As harshly as I criticised Maria Larsson for her original decision, I must now congratulate her for having the political courage to change her mind and to reach an agreement with the opposition so swiftly.