Who we are

About Us

Article 39 is a small, independent charity which fights for the rights of children living in institutional settings. We registered with the Charity Commission in 2016 (no. 1166092). By 'institutional setting' we mean an establishment that is not a family home and in which a child has been placed by their parents or the authorities for the purposes of care, protection, education, training, detention or punishment.

Why Article 39 was set up

Family life is central to human rights and children’s happiness and well-being. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child grants children deprived of their family environment the right to special protection and assistance.

Continuing reports of systemic child abuse occurring in institutions in the past serve as a constant reminder of the vulnerabilities of children who live away from home. Here's a snapshot of some of devastating revelations which came into public view during 2016:

  • In January, BBC Panorama exposed serious physical and emotional abuse of children at the G4S-run Medway secure training centre, through undercover filming
  • By March, 39 former patients, many of them children at the time, reported that they had been subject to sexual, physical and emotional abuse at Aston Hall hospital, in Derbyshire, across the 1960s and '70s
  • In July, Durham Police announced that more than 1,340 former inmates of Medomsley detention centre, in Durham, have reported they were abused while incarcerated there. There are 31 main surviving suspects
  • Also in July, the Church of England issued an apology for the "harrowing regime" at Kendall House children's home for girls in Kent, between 1967 and 1986, following publication of an independent report.

In May 2015, we asked every local authority in England about investigations of past abuse in residential care. Of those that answered this question (75 in all), nearly a quarter (24%) were aware of investigations occurring in their local authority.

We now know that the broadcaster Jimmy Savile committed hundreds of crimes against children in children’s homes, hospitals and Duncroft approved school in Surrey.

In 2012, secure training centres run by G4S and Serco were found by the High Court to have unlawfully restrained children for at least a decade.

The Goddard Inquiry is investigating the sexual abuse and exploitation of children in institutions run by the state and others from the 1970s to the present day.

Our charity fights for the rights of children living in institutional settings today.

3.3/100Based on data provided by local councils, research for the NSPCC* concluded that there were 3.34 confirmed cases of abuse by staff for every 100 children in residential care in England in 2011/12. There were 15.41 abuse allegations per 100 children during this same period.

Last year, we asked every local authority in England for information on institutional child abuse allegations, investigations and outcomes. With a 73% response rate, we have elicited some very valuable data. For example, a child prison notified one local authority of 82 child abuse allegations across three years. None of the children's allegations were found to be substantiated. These allegations were made between 2012/13 and 2014/15, suggesting it wasn't only in the past that children struggled to be heard and taken seriously.


*Nina Biehal, Linda Cusworth, Jim Wade with Susan Clarke (2014) Keeping children safe: allegations concerning the abuse or neglect of children in care. Final report. London: NSPCC

Data about children living in institutional settings in England is not collected or published together.

We estimate that, at any one time, there are around 80,000 children living in institutional settings in England. This estimate is based upon:

  • The Independent Schools Council latest census, which found there were 70,637 children attending independent boarding schools in January 2016.
  • Department for Education data showing there were 8,320 ‘looked after’ children in residential care on 31 March 2015 (6,570 in children’s homes, hostels and secure units; 1,080 in other residential settings and 670 in residential schools). Looked after children are those in the care of local authorities.
  • Data provided in response to a Parliamentary Question in May 2014 showing 2,260 children had stayed in hospital for more than three months in 2012/13 (44% were aged under one).
  • NHS data showing there were 1,264 Tier 4 CAMHS [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services] beds for children in January 2014, and 250 children admitted to adult mental health wards in the eight months to November 2013.
  • Ministry of Justice data showing there were 870 children held in custody in May 2016. (NB Some of these children will also appear in the looked after data).
  • Home Office data showing 18 children entered immigration detention in the fourth quarter of 2015.