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Opinion: Compensation culture only leaves taxpayers out of pocket when public bodies are to blame, says Secret Thinker

It’s all very well copying our colonial cousins from across the pond and creeping ever further into a claim culture, but who really ends up paying? We all do, of course.

Sadly, whenever we hear a tale of woe these days, whether it be a simple accident or a story about a serious cover-up, we immediately assume the complainant is looking for a payout. And, the more they protest it’s not about the money but is instead a warning to others, the more convinced we become that a legal claim will follow.

Public bodies shell out millions in compensation. Library image
Public bodies shell out millions in compensation. Library image

But where does all this cash come from?

Personal injury claims are currently falling but claims against faceless organisations or, more accurately, public bodies are increasing exponentially.

It’s clear postmasters and postmistresses up and down the land have been severely wronged and will, quite rightly, receive massive compensation – but there’s no money tree, no magic bag of gold coins - we will all have to cough up to cover the misdemeanours of the Post Office because some bosses thought they were beyond the law.

But the latest thing is the children of some victims seeking compensation for the impact their parents’ wrongful convictions have had on their lives.

In other words, they want us to pay out for their ‘lost opportunities’ due to the way their parents were treated. If this claim gets settled, we’ll already be too far down the slippery slope to save ourselves.

My granddad had his eyesight wrecked by mustard gas in the war, which could well have been a deciding factor in my dad becoming a poorly-paid teacher rather than a very wealthy actuary. This, in turn, meant I wasn’t sent to Eton, which surely means I must be due a large slab of compo – I wonder if a nicely-worded letter to the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will see bundles of Euros heading in my direction?

Sub-postmasters highlighting their case outside the Law Courts in London
Sub-postmasters highlighting their case outside the Law Courts in London

Every time a doctor makes a bad decision or some other NHS bod bungles something, the family are immediately on the hunt for recompense. Once again, I’m pleased enough to see people properly compensated for such things but don’t be under any illusions, we’re all paying the price for such cock-ups.

The biggest payout, in 2020, saw £37m paid to one family when procedures were not followed during the birth of a baby and resulted in the child being brain damaged.

By 2021/22 NHS England paid a total of £2.6bn in compensation.

Ironically the police offer victims of crime advice on how they can claim compensation.

But all too often it’s been the police themselves who’ve ended up paying out and yet again, that means we all pay.

The best-known example must be the cover-up by West Midlands Police and South Yorkshire Police which led to massive sums being paid to the families of Hillsborough victims, but there are many more cases and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the police are not keen to share the sums involved.

I don’t see claims against our police, the NHS, councils, the post office or even our schools falling any time soon.

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