Category: Uncategorized

Article 39 to set up national advocates network

In July 2018, Article 39 conducted an online survey of independent advocates in England. The findings give insight into their experiences, their workload and challenges, the groups of children they work with and what would help advocates give the best help to children and young people.

Article 39’s Assistant Director, Helen Donohoe, said:

“This survey reinforces our previous concerns that the provision of independent advocacy for vulnerable children and young people in England is inconsistent and disjointed. The results also show unequivocal support for a form of training from Article 39 and greater peer-to-peer connection and support. In response to that we will launch a nationwide advocates network in early 2019.”

Read the survey report here: Article 39 The 2018 survey of independent advocates.

Action taken on child’s note – nearly 14 years on

On 8 August 2004, 14 year-old Adam Rickwood was found hanging in his cell in a child prison run by Serco.

In addition to a note for his family, asking to be buried with his grandad, Adam left behind a statement explaining that officers had deliberately swiped his nose, and that he bled for nearly an hour.

Adam asked the officers what gave them the right to hit a child in the nose.

Today, nearly 14 years later, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) set out its plans for a new type of locked institution – the secure school.

The MoJ document says pain-inducing restraint will not be permitted.

The ‘nose distraction’ inflicted on Adam was an officially authorised restraint technique. It was withdrawn three years later from the privately-run secure training centres, and from all child prisons in 2010/11. But other pain-inducing restraint has continued.

Article 39 has been campaigning to end pain-inducing restraint since we first set up as a charity. With the backing of nearly 200 donors, we have been threatening to take the Ministry of Justice to court to get the authorisation of pain-inducing restraint lifted during children’s journeys to and from secure children’s homes. We believed we were on firm ground since the Department for Education prohibits pain-inducing restraint within secure children’s homes.

Today’s publication indicates the government department in charge of child prisons has finally conceded that allowing and training those who look after children to deliberately inflict severe pain as a form of restraint is unjustified.

Adam’s statement was published by the Guardian newspaper in June 2007.

Adam Rickwood's statement

 

 

Child protection arrangements improve at prison, say inspectors

An inspection report published today (9 May) states the London Borough of Hounslow has improved its child protection scrutiny and action in response to abuse allegations from boys in Feltham prison. This has previously been an area of great concern for Article 39.

The report says inspectors “found examples of improvements to safeguarding practice as a direct result of the oversight provided by the local authority” and children who made abuse allegations were “well supported”.

In the six months prior to the inspection, which was undertaken between December and January 2018, 25 child protection referrals had been made to the local authority from the prison. Most of these related to the use of force and inspectors comment that all of them “were appropriate”. The report does not indicate the outcome of these referrals.

Inspectors report there had been 17 uses of pain-inducing restraint in six months. This is where officers deliberately inflict pain on children – a practice condemned by many bodies including the UN Committee Against Torture.

The segregation unit remained a “grim environment”:

Cells [in the segregation unit] were stark and poorly furnished and many were dirty. Communal areas were dirty and shabby. Conditions in the special accommodation cells (stark, unfurnished cells with no beds, toilets or sinks) were particularly grim. Use of these cells had reduced since the last inspection from 14 to four instances, but we were not assured that use was justified on every occasion…

Staff treated boys well and we saw examples of angry boys being dealt with patiently by calm officers. However, the regime was impoverished and remained punitive. Boys had limited access to telephone calls, showers and exercise which mirrored poor regimes in adult segregation units. Boys were not permitted televisions and had little access to education facilities.

Most boys in other parts of the prison were allowed out of their cells just seven hours a day. They could exercise only 30 minutes every morning. Boys were not always able to have a shower or make a telephone call every day.

Of 25 recommendations relating to children’s safety made at the last inspection, early in 2017, 14 (56%) had been achieved, 9 (36%) had not been achieved and 2 (8%) were partially achieved.

Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said:

“Despite some improvements in child protection scrutiny, the reality remains that boys are incarcerated in conditions utterly unsuitable for children. While reading the report, especially the section on Feltham’s segregation unit, the thought once again came into my mind that these graphic descriptions of the harms inflicted on children will appear one day in an official inquiry report. People will look back in shock and shame that we ever treated children this way.” 

Read the full report here.

Child health bodies urge ban on solitary confinement in custody

The British Medical Association, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal College of Psychiatrists have issued a joint position statement calling for the prohibition of solitary confinement in child prisons and secure children’s homes. The health bodies say:

There is an unequivocal body of evidence on the profound impact solitary confinement can have on health and wellbeing.

Various studies indicate an increased risk of suicide or self-harm amongst those placed in solitary confinement.

As children are still in the crucial stages of developing socially, psychologically, and neurologically, there are serious risks of solitary confinement causing long-term psychiatric and developmental harm.

There is also clear evidence that it is counter-productive. Rather than improving behaviour, solitary confinement fails to address the underlying causes, and creates problems with reintegration.

For these reasons, there is a growing international consensus – from groups including the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, and the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Torture – that solitary confinement should never be used on children and young people.

In light of its potential to cause harm, and in the absence of compelling evidence for its use, we call for an end to the use of solitary confinement on children and young people detained in the youth justice system.”

Carolyne Willow, Article 39’s Director, said:

“There is absolutely no justification for this cruel and normalised practice of physically and psychologically isolating children. Solitary confinement causes terrible suffering and police, health and social care agencies would be knocking down doors to help children escape such treatment in any other setting.”

Read the full joint statement here.

Minister urged not to weaken children and young people’s legal protections

With 27 other organisations and 15 social work experts, Article 39 has written to the Minister in charge of children’s social care, Nadhim Zahawi MP, to urge him not to accept five recommendations in the fostering stocktake

The fostering stocktake was undertaken by Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers. They made 36 recommendations in total, five of which concern the law (numbers 4, 6, 7, 8 and 33). If accepted by the Minister, the five legal recommendations would weaken children and young people’s protections – affecting those entering care, living in care and leaving care.

Our joint letter can be viewed here (different site).

Signatories to the letter
Article 39
Association of Independent Visitors and Consultants to Child Care Services
Association of Lawyers for Children
Association of Professors of Social Work
Become
British Association of Social Workers England
The Care Leavers’ Association
Children England
Children’s Rights Alliance for England
CoramBAAF
The Fostering Network
Howard League for Penal Reform
Independent Children’s Homes Association
Legal Action for Women
The MAC Project (Central England Law Centre and the Astraea Project)
Nagalro
National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC)
National Association for Youth Justice
National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers
Napo: the professional association and trade union for Probation and Family Court workers
NYAS
Parents of Traumatised Adopted Teens Organisation
Refugee Council
Siblings Together
Single Mothers’ Self-Defence
Southwark Law Centre
South West London Law Centres
UNISON

Dr Maggie Atkinson, freelance consultant and former Children’s Commissioner for England
Dr Liz Davies, Emeritus Reader in Child Protection, London Metropolitan University
Brid Featherstone, Professor of Social Work, University of Huddersfield
Anna Gupta, Professor of Social Work, Royal Holloway University of London
Pam Hibbert OBE
Ray Jones, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, Kingston University and St George’s, University of London
Dr Mark Kerr, Managing Partner, The Centre for Outcomes of Care
Jenny Molloy, Author, Adviser and Trainer
Kate Morris, Professor of Social Work, University of Sheffield
Peter Saunders, Founder NAPAC
Mike Stein, Emeritus Professor, University of York
June Thoburn CBE, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, University of East Anglia
Judith Timms OBE
Jane Tunstill, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, Royal Holloway, London University
Sue White, Professor of Social Work, University of Sheffield