Article 39 registered with the Charity Commission in March 2016 and gained our first funding in July that year. Here is a summary of our main areas of impact in 2016/17.
Defending children’s social care rights
We led opposition to the break up and removal of children’s social care rights, which would have occurred had Parliament passed the ‘exemption clauses’ in the Children and Social Work Act 2017. We established the Together for Children campaign group and website, which was supported by 53 organisations and more than 160 experts, including many parents and carers of disabled children. A 38 Degrees petition created by our Director attracted over 108,000 signatures. After tireless lobbying by Article 39 and others in March 2017, in an unprecedented move, the Education Secretary Justine Greening MP added her name to opposition amendments tabled to delete the clauses. The amendment was duly passed, and the eight clauses were removed.
Disclosure of medical emergencies during restraint
We forced the disclosure of information on serious injuries and asphyxiation warning signs during the use of physical restraint in child prisons. This was the first time such information was brought into the public domain. As a result of our work, the Government announced it would consider routinely releasing such information. This happened in January 2017, when the latest annual statistics on restraint were published and contained data on restraint resulting in medical emergencies. This strengthens accountability and should improve child protection in the longer-term.
Challenging institutional child abuse
We gave advice to the BBC Panorama team making a programme about G4S-run Medway secure training centre, ‘Teenage Prison Abuse Exposed’, which was broadcast in January 2016. Article 39’s Director was the only professional in a non-statutory role to be interviewed by the Medway Independent Improvement Board, established by the Justice Secretary following the serious abuse revelations. After publication of the Board’s report, the Government announced it would be taking control of the centre from G4S. We submitted information about the child prison to the Medway Safeguarding Children Board, and lobbied directly, and through the media, for the Board to launch a serious case review. In February 2017, the Board announced it would be establishing such a review.
Safety of restraint techniques
We obtained the independent medical advice given to Ministers on the safety of restraint techniques approved for use with children in custody, children taken by escort to custody and children taken on aircraft for deportation. The Guardian newspaper published the story at the end of 2016 and a question was subsequently asked in Parliament. In response, the Government said it would consider annually publishing the medical risk assessment with other restraint review information.
Children’s rights monitoring
We welcomed recommendations to the UK Government from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child concerning children in institutional settings, several of which we directly lobbied for in the evidence we submitted. The UN Committee’s recommendations on the use of physical restraint build on those made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights last year, to which we also submitted evidence.