UKIP Uses Forced Adoption To Rally Voters In Commons Debate

Having no shame whatsoever, UKIP has now decided to weigh in on child welfare matters by moving a debate in the House of Commons on Forced Adoption. What follows is a comical attempt at appealing to the public’s heart strings by echoing already well known sentiments about the state of the child welfare system in the UK.

The debate, which took place yesterday,  was scheduled by UKIP’s Douglas Carswell MP, who begins by showing his support for Forced Adoption. He then launches into a scathing attack of the family courts, calling for more openness and transparency.

None of what Carswell says is new. Other MPs in the debate are good enough to advise him on nuances he misses completely in his tirade, which is clearly given with the general public in mind. From using the term Forced Adoption (a term which is not generally accepted within the family court sector) to referring to the courts as a ‘cartel’, Carswell does his best to sound like ‘one of us’. Except he’s not. He’s a politician out for for votes, and he’ll use children being forcibly adopted, to get them.

Not that the rest of the politicians in this debate fare any better. Edward Timpson does his best to defend his government’s impact on the system, and appears to be in complete denial about the deepening crises inside the child welfare sector. Only Lucy Allan, who experienced the Family Court herself first hand and nearly lost her son as a result, was able to give a more balanced view.

The debate though is a must read, for the basic refresher course it offers in some of the main issues affecting the system and a reminder at least, that our politicians are not fit for purpose.


Rise In Reoffending Rates Amongst 10-17 Year Olds

The government has just published a very interesting report on reoffending rates amongst 10-17 years olds in England and Wales which suggests that reoffending amongst this age group has steadily risen over a period of 11 years (2002-2013).

The report also tells us that whilst reoffending has gone up by 36%, the number of offenders in total, has gone down.

The key stats from the report:

  • From March 2012- March 2013, 52,600 offenders in the above age bracket were cautioned, convicted or released from custody
  • Of these 52,600 offenders, 19,000 committed at least one re-offence
  • There has been an upward trend in reoffending for this age bracket
  • There has been a downward trend in the number of offenders in this age bracket overall
  • Multiple reoffending for this group has steadily risen since 2008
  • Offenders are getting marginally older: from 14.9 years to 15.4 years
  • Reoffenders are also getting marginally older: from 15.4 to 15.9 years
  • The vast majority of offences and re-offences are Summary non motoring offences*

Sadly, the report does not make a proper effort at trying to understand the patterns in the data. There is no indication as to why the number of offenders has gone down, but those who have committed an offence are much more likely to go on and reoffend, often multiple times. No data is given for the years 2014 or any period of 2015, which we think would make for enlightening reading, post austerity measures.

One possible explanation for the high reoffending rate is that rehabilitation for young offenders just isn’t working as a model. If the Juvenile Justice System were to treat children as children and offer them support, rather than punishment, we feel this would reduce reoffending considerably and give these children back their sense of self worth, which they have lost due to circumstances often beyond their control. We have just created a petition asking the government to make the Juvenile Justice System child-friendly, so if you agree with us, please consider lending your support.

Still, the research is well worth looking at – please do let us know if you can spot any trends in the data that give us clues as to why these patterns are emerging.

•Summary non motoring offences are less serious offences, usually tried in the Magistrates’ Court. The maximum sentence that can be imposed is 6 months, though most offences of this type have a lower maximum sentence. Offences in this bracket include driving offences (though in this report ‘non motoring’ means driving offences are not included), Common Assault and ss4 and 5 of the Public Order Act (using offensive language or causing a fear of violence), as well as regulatory offences.

MOJ 10-17


European Court Of Human Rights Launches Handbook On Rights Of The Child

A new handbook on European Law and the Rights of the Child designed to inform and support all those working with children, has been published this month. It is the first of its kind.

Jointly written by The European Agency For Fundamental Rights (FRA), the Council of Europe and The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the book is a fully comprehensive guide to European Law in relation to Child Rights. It has been designed to assist lawyers, judges, prosecutors, social workers, non-governmental organisations and other bodies working on legal issues relating to rights of the child.

The publication itself covers a broad range of topics, including equality, personal identity, family life, alternative care and adoption, migration and asylum and child protection against violence and exploitation. It also touches upon children’s rights within criminal justice and alternative proceedings.

The handbook is currently available in English and French, but will be available in other languages as of next year. Both digital downloads and paper copies are free of charge.

Big thank you to Sabine McNeill for alerting us to this development.


You Can Start A Gov Petition – You Just Can’t See Who’s Signed It

The government’s relentless drive towards transparency hit another comical turn this week after it was confirmed that you can create a Petition on Parliament’s dedicated petition website – you just can’t see who’s signed it.

Researching Reform decided to create a petition two weeks ago which focused on improving the structure of the UK’s Juvenile Justice System. Much to our frustration, the site now hugely restricts your ability to write a proper petition headline, and accompanying information – it’s like Twitter for Mensa.

The end result is that it is much harder for people to understand the background to a petition, and so few are likely to sign it.

Still, we decided to soldier on with it and once we received our notification email telling us the petition had been accepted and was now live on the site, we decided to see who had signed it.

And then realised we couldn’t.

All you do get is a sorry looking link titled ‘Get Petition Data’ (json format), which allows you to see where the signatories are based within the UK and who the overseeing MP in their area is. If like us, you created a petition, there may have been a moment in which you thought MPs had all flocked to your petition to sign it. That euphoria is short lived once you realise the House of Commons Petition Committee is mocking you and your dwindling hope for an open and transparent government.

We wrote to the Committee asking why we couldn’t see who had signed our petition and this was their response:

Dear Natasha ,

Thank you for your email.

Only the name of the creator of the petition is published on our website. The names of those who have signed the petition and their postcodes are not publically available, even to the petition creator. This information is held securely and confidentially on our system.

I hope this helps with your enquiry.

In other words, you can’t see who’s signed your petition but the Petitions Committee, can, and whilst we have no desire to access the postcodes or personal details of those signing our petitions, we do think petition creators should at least be able to see the names of all those who sign their petitions.

To make matters worse, your petition has a shelf life of only 6 months. That might reduce the Petition Committee’s work load a little bit, but as a timeframe it’s unreasonable. 

So what you’re left with is a pretty opaque petition website which will only benefit those who hit a tidal wave of public interest at the right time, or have a network of people on hand to flood their petition with signatures and shares.

Long live democracy.

Petition Logo





Question It!

Welcome to your week.

In a terrible turn of events, a teenage boy has been stabbed to death after being groomed online by another teenager, despite the mother’s repeated attempts at alerting the police to her concerns over the friendship.

Although the attacker was known to the police, they refused to take action. The Surrey police call handler has since resigned from her post. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) concluded in its report on the matter that the handler and her supervisor would have faced misconduct proceedings had they both not resigned.

Since the report, Surrey Police have made changes to the way it handles calls about child grooming, however the article above does not tell us how.

Our question to you then, is just this: what could we do to make the call centre process better?

(You can listen to the call the mother made to the police, to give you an idea of how the call was handled).




The Inquiry’s Restriction Order Doesn’t Gag Survivors But It Does Affect Transparency

Much is being made this week of a Restriction Order put in place by the nation’s Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse, which effectively bans participants of the Inquiry’s Truth Project from speaking about the sessions. Some are calling it a gagging order of sorts and others a muddled policy which didn’t seem to include Victim and Survivor Panel Member participation, but are we right to view the Order in this light, and what does the Order actually mean for survivors and their stories?

On first inspection, it does seem as if the Inquiry is trying to suppress survivors – this has more to do with the muddled language used in the Questions and Answers document, than within the Order itself. In one paragraph in the Q&A page we are told:

“The Restriction Order is a legal ruling that prohibits public access to the Truth Project private sessions and prevents anyone from making public…
­ the details of the experiences shared with the Inquiry.”

That gives the distinct expression that survivors will not be able to talk about their own cases to others. And yet, further down the Q&A page, we have this paragraph:

“The Restriction Order does not prevent you from:
­ talking about your experience of sexual abuse with anyone else;
­ telling others that you wrote to the Inquiry or attended a Truth Project private session; discussing how you felt about sharing your experience with the Inquiry.”


“There is an exception in the Restriction Order that allows you to discuss all the details of what happened as part of the Truth Project with a therapist, counsellor or doctor.”

It’s easy to see how survivors, or anyone for that matter, might get confused about what can, and can’t be said. Jump over to the actual Order itself, and things become clearer. The Order states:

“Disclosure or publication of the identity, or any details tending to indicate the identity, of any person who has provided or intends to provide an account within the scope of the Truth Project, is prohibited, except in the following circumstances:
i. where the person making the disclosure or publication is the same person as the person who is providing or has provided the account of child sexual abuse to the Inquiry.

Clearly then, the Order is designed to protect other survivors from having their stories discussed in the media and elsewhere without their consent.

The Order goes further – it says disclosure is also allowed where that victim or survivor consents to the Inquiry publishing an anonymous summary of what they reported to the Inquiry. The Order also says that a survivor can disclose what they said during the session to a third party, as long as they don’t also mention that they made, or did not make, the same disclosure during the Truth Project session.

And whilst this is understandable, and an attempt at allowing survivors the freedom to express themselves as far as possible without compromising other survivors, it does pose one problem in relation to the transparency of the meeting itself.

What if survivors end up discussing a visible flaw within the Inquiry? Or they challenge the Inquiry on a point of operation that could be of public interest? Or worse still, an Inquiry member says or does something wrong?

Under the Inquiries Act 2005, which is where the current Inquiry gets its power to create a Restriction Order, the legislation makes it clear that any restriction on reporting must not “inhibit the allaying of public concern.”

And yet, public concern must exist in this context, without any reassurance from the Inquiry at this time that confidentiality is to be balanced properly with an appropriate level of transparency.

Nevertheless, the Inquiry could create that balance by ensuring that all meetings are recorded formally, and sign off from every participant in each meeting given once they have read the Minutes of those meetings. It is also crucial that the Inquiry details clearly what can be reported in such meetings, for example comments relating to Inquiry process or matters likely to be of public interest beyond survivor testimony. 

We have tried to ask the Inquiry whether they will be doing this, via their Twitter account, however they don’t seem to have a clear understanding of how social media works, and their engagement level with the public on this platform is non existent, so we are unlikely to get a response. If any team member from the Inquiry is reading this, please do at least consider writing an update on the IICSA website, giving us an indication of how the Inquiry will be recording the sessions and what kind of involvement Victim and Survivor Panel Members have had in this process.

Good luck.

IICSA Home Page






Relief Campaigns For Children Around The World

Kindness should be part of daily life, but the festive season is a great opportunity for us to take stock of what’s going on around the world and the latest atrocities from Paris to Beirut, Nigeria and beyond remind us that children and families all over the world continue to suffer, in the most terrible ways imaginable.

So we’ve decided to share some campaigns with you, which if you feel so inclined you can get involved with, by doing as little as sharing them, or donating if you feel you can.

Syrian children are amongst some of the worst casualties in today’s world. This photographer captures the deeply painful realities of their lives. 

Syrian child

Pumpkins Against Poverty is an initiative in Bangladesh which aims to help eliminate poverty in the country. And for every pound you donate before 31st December, the government will match it.


There are nearly 100,000 homeless children in the UK, and as awful as that is, this state of affairs is even worse during the winter when it’s bitterly cold and everyone is out with their families celebrating the holidays, except you. Shelter offers help to these children, as well as all those who find themselves homeless, and their work is vital during the Christmas season. You can support their work by making a donation but there are lots of other ways too.

Homeless uk

Whilst we don’t believe in doing anything in Jesus’ name, or Allah’s name or any name except our own for that matter, the Samaritan’s Shoebox initiative, which allows you to pack a shoebox full of toys to send around the world to children who otherwise wouldn’t get gifts at Christmas, is a lovely project. Fun to do with your children, as well as helping to highlight the differences in quality of life around the world and developing their sense of empathy and compassion, too.

Samaritans logo



Make Our Child Prisons Human Rights Compatible – Sign The Petition

Petition Page 

There was widespread outrage last year when Chris Grayling as Secretary of State For Justice cited a 69% rise in prison suicides, as a ‘blip’ and since then, suicides in juvenile detention centres and prisons have ranked high on the media’s list of concerns.

So serious is the ongoing maltreatment of children inside the juvenile justice system, that the Joint Committee On Human Rights called for a review of the system, and in 2014 the Children’s Rights Alliance for England published a report denouncing the use of force against children in prisons and the need to better train all those working inside the sector. There are also clear barriers to mental health and other forms of support, which are denying children their right to basic good health whilst in detention.

It is clear from these reports that not only are UK prisons failing to implement recommendations to make their services human rights compatible, they are also flouting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which came into force in the UK in 1992.

In response to the ongoing concerns about children’s health and safety inside our juvenile justice system, Researching Reform proposed a petition last week, through the Government’s Petition website. That petition has now been accepted, and we would be very grateful if you might consider signing it. You can do so, here.

We essentially propose making the juvenile justice system human rights compatible, as soon as possible, by changing the way the system handles children generally so that is it supportive, rather punitive. The template we offer is taken from a ground breaking project in Spain, called Diagrama.  You can read a little more about the programme here.

Due to the new petition submission and format rules, very little text can be added, so our post here aims to offer some background to this petition.

We very much hope you will sign the petition and thank you for taking the time to read this post.

Researching Reform.

Petition Prison





Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,294 other followers