Month: December 2018

John Kemmis: a man children could always depend upon

John KemmisIt is with tremendous sadness that we mourn the loss of John Kemmis, who died with his family by his side yesterday afternoon.

We also celebrate who John was, what he stood for and what he gave to children.

Maria, 54, met John when she was 3 or 4 years-old and first went into care. John was Maria’s social worker. She said:

“There were two incredibly kind people that I remember and cherish from my childhood, one was the cook from the children’s home and the other was John. I will never forget him.”

John was a “really significant” person in Hiwet’s life. Now aged 38, she came to the UK as a child refugee and it was only through having an advocate that she was able to be fostered and move from her children’s home. Hiwet has many lovely memories of working with John at Voice for the Child in Care (now known as Coram Voice), and thinks of him with love and happiness.

Article 39’s national campaign to strengthen children’s independent advocacy was John’s idea. His vision and determination led to a Parliamentary roundtable in June this year, after which the Children’s Commissioner for England established an Advocacy Working Group which will report early in 2019.  Nearly 50 organisations now back our campaign, whose goals were crafted by John.

Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said:

“John was a man of deep principle and purpose. He stood by children because he believed in them. He saw and felt the injustice of children not being heard, not being believed and not being helped. Then he translated what he saw and felt into action. And brought others with him. Over many years.

“John was an exceptionally kind and warm human being. His smile was energising and his commitment motivating. If we in the charity world are allowed to have comrades, then John Kemmis was my comrade. His work and legacy goes on.”

You can read more about John’s 50+ year career in social work and children’s rights here (published by the British Association of Social Workers).

In October 2018, John was the inaugural winner of the Stand Out Children’s Advocacy Award. Read more here.

Review of Mental Health Act – new protections proposed for children

The final report of the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act 1983, published today (6 December), makes several very welcome proposals for strengthening the care and protection of children, including:

  • That children’s capacity to consent to admission to a mental health unit, and to treatment for a mental disorder, be based on their understanding and communication, rather than strictly tied to age. The review recommends the Government undertake a consultation on whether parents should continue to be allowed to have children (aged under 16) admitted to mental health units against the child’s wishes. Currently domestic law gives children aged 16 and 17 the right to consent to medical treatment; below this age, consent is dependent upon the child’s understanding. (See a summary of the legal position on our rights4children website).
  • That every child receiving in-patient care should have a care and treatment plan which clearly sets out their views and wishes.
  • That the Government should consider introducing a duty on health providers to support families to stay in touch when a child is placed out of their home area; this could include financial support.
  • That children’s right to independent mental health advocacy be extended to include care planning and making advance choices about care (this would include use of restraint). Very positively, the review recommends that advocacy be opt-out (taking the onus away from patients to seek support) and that children (and adults) in prison awaiting transfer to a mental health unit should have the right to an independent mental health advocate. Independent mental health advocates working with children and young people must be trained for this and providers should be required to produce quarterly reports, incorporating the views of those who have used their services, the review says.
  • Greater attention should be given to meeting the health needs of African and Caribbean children at a much earlier stage, particularly those at risk of school exclusion.
  • That children admitted to a mental health unit be legally defined as a child in need, thus entitling their parents to support from councils under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989.
  • That the Care Quality Commission makes special efforts to obtain the views of children and young people when it inspects and reviews mental health services. It should be notified within 24 hours of every child placed out of their home area.

Read the full report here. Recommendations relating to children and young people, and parents, appear throughout the report and in a dedicated section on pages 167-177.