Category: Disabled children

Minimising the use of restraint with disabled children

Article 39 has responded to the Department of Health and Department for Education’s consultation on ‘Reducing the need for restraint and restrictive intervention’ with children and young people with learning disabilities, autistic spectrum disorder and mental health difficulties.

In October 2017, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities urged the UK to:

Adopt appropriate measures to eradicate the use of restraint for reasons related to disability within all settings … as well as practices of segregation and isolation that may amount to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.

We used this as the backdrop to our consultation response, which you can download here: Article 39 Consultation response Reducing the need for restraint and restrictive intervention Jan 2018

Restraint related to disability must be eradicated, says UN body

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has issued its concluding observations following its first review of the UK.

The 17-page report documents major breaches in the UK’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which we ratified in June 2009. The international treaty sets out the rights of disabled children and adults, which are complementary and additional to other treaties such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Several major areas of concern relate to the rights of disabled children and young people living in institutional settings, with the UN Committee urging:

  • Support to parents so that disabled children can enjoy their right to family life, and to reduce the numbers of children living away from home. Connected to this, the UK is urged to tackle the disproportionate levels of poverty among families with disabled children
  • A comprehensive strategy on inclusive education, in line with the human rights model of disability
  • Action to combat prejudice and discrimination disabled children endure through bullying and hate crime
  • The end of restraint related to disability and segregation and isolation in all settings
  • Action to prevent the use of restraint on disabled children and young people
  • Financial support to organisations run by and for disabled children to, among other things, enable them to actively monitor the implementation of the human rights treaty.

Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said:

“The UN body on disability rights has issued a devastating critique of the myriad of ways in which disabled children and young people are held back, excluded and punished. We know, for example, that children who have learning disabilities and difficulties disproportionately end up in prison where physical restraint and segregation are typically the automatic response for dealing with their profound distress and anxiety. With the UK due to submit a report within 12 months on the steps it has taken to implement the UN body’s recommendations, the Government must act quickly to remedy these grave human rights violations.”  

Download the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ concluding observations here.

Supreme Court rules on benefits for disabled children in hospital

The Supreme Court has ruled that the human rights of three-year-old Cameron Mathieson were violated when the Department for Work and Pensions took away his disability living allowance (DLA) benefit after he had been in hospital for 84 days.

Cameron had cystic fibrosis and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, among other medical conditions. In July 2010, aged three, he was admitted to Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool and stayed there until August 2011. His parents were his primary caregivers in hospital. Quoting the First-Tier Tribunal, the Supreme Court notes Cameron “was blessed with loving and caring parents who were utterly devoted to his care”. It cost Mr and Mrs Mathieson around £8000 to meet the costs associated with Cameron being in hospital for 13 months.

In November 2010, the family were notified that Cameron’s DLA benefit would be removed, because he was being “maintained free of charge” in hospital. This was in accordance with regulations passed in 1991 (for over 16s, the limit is just 28 days).

Very sadly, Cameron died in 2012 but his parents continued the legal challenge to the benefit rule. Their success means the cases of around 500 disabled children in hospital will have to be considered, and the Department for Work and Pensions must take action to prevent similar violations in future.

Lawyers representing Cameron cited his rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the UK ratified in 1991 and 2006 respectively.

Read the judgment here.