Charlie Gard: European Court Will Not Intervene.

The European Court considering the case of Charlie Gard, a baby with a rare medical condition who has been on life support for most of his young life, has turned down an appeal launched by his parents to keep him alive. 

The European Court Of Human Rights concluded that Charlie was most likely in pain, and to continue life support and experimental treatment would cause Charlie significant harm with no prospect of success. The Court has also lifted the interim measure it put in place which would have kept Charlie on life support until 11 July. It is likely that life support will be switched off in the near future.

We cannot imagine what Charlie’s parents must be feeling. At the very least we hope the hospital will ensure that both mother and father have the best counselling and support available as they go through this devastating moment.

We remain in awe of the dedication, love and care they gave Charlie. Their courage and determination in the face of pessimistic medical views, and their unswerving optimism will never be forgotten. Their strength and dignity inspired a nation.

As a mark of respect we will not be posting anything on the site tomorrow.

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Photo: Featureworld

 

 

 

 

Question It!

Welcome to another week.

Abusive initiation ceremonies in sport where children are being sexually assaulted by peers are still viewed as ‘the norm’ by parents and sporting professionals.

It has also been reported that high profile and well connected parents have been trying to convince police receiving complaints that this kind of behaviour is ‘just a bit of fun’. A sharp increase in reports of child sexual abuse in sport raises serious questions about British culture and the pressure on children to ‘agree’ to being assaulted in order to be part of clubs and elite teams.

Our question this week then is this: how can we ensure this kind of abuse in sport is stopped? 

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NSPCC Calls On Government To Launch Child Abuse Investigation

Hot off the heels of its latest report on the state of child protection in the UK, the NSPCC is asking the government to launch a UK wide, in depth study looking at current levels of child abuse.

The call comes after its report highlighted a significant increase in the reporting of different types of child abuse, but a less clear picture on what this means about the prevalence, origins and motivations behind these abuses.

The key findings are added below:

  • In recent years there has been an increase in emotional abuse as a reason for children being on a child protection plan or register in England and Wales, and increasing numbers of contacts to the NSPCC helpline about the issue.
  • There has been an increase in public reporting of child abuse. In 2016/17 the NSPCC helpline responded to its highest ever number of contacts.
  • There have also been increases in police-recorded child sexual offences and indecent image offences across the UK and increases in child cruelty and neglect offences in all UK nations except Scotland.
  • The last decade has also seen increased numbers of children on child protection plans and registers and increased numbers of looked after children in the UK.
  • But, without a new survey of child maltreatment prevalence we lack a clear picture of the extent of child abuse and neglect today. That’s why we are calling on the UK Government to commission a new UK-wide study.

The table of contents is also interesting:

  1. Child homicides recorded by police includes the offences of murder, manslaughter and infanticide
  2. Child mortality deaths by assault, neglect and undetermined intent
  3. Child suicides
  4. Number of recorded sexual offences against children
  5. Number of recorded cruelty and neglect offences 
  6. Self-reported prevalence of abuse and neglect
  7. Counselling sessions with Childline
  8. Contacts with the NSPCC helpline
  9. Online harm 
  10. Violent incidents experienced by 10 to 15 year olds Crime survey for England and Wales
  11. Crime survey for England and Wales: Experiences of abuse in childhood
  12. Referrals to social services
  13. Children in need
  14. Children in the child protection system
  15. Composition of child protection plans and child protection registers 
  16. Re-registration onto child protection registers or returning to a child protection plan
  17. How long are children subject to child protection plans or on child protection registers
  18. Looked after children 
  19. Proportion of looked after children who have three or more placements during the year
  20. Child trafficking
  21. Public attitudes to child abuse and neglect
  22. Glossary

Whilst some of this data is not new, many of the stats are still shocking. We have yet to read this report in full, but in the meantime do let us know what you think.

Many thanks to Jonny Matthew for sharing this report on Twitter, which is where we found it.

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Damning Report Confirms Church Colluded With Convicted Paedophile Bishop Peter Ball

A new report written by Dame Moira Gibb accuses the Church of England of concealing evidence of child sexual abuse at the hands of its clergy and colluding with convicted paedophile, Bishop Peter Ball.

Ball, who was the former bishop of Gloucester and Lewes, was jailed in October 2015 for the grooming, sexual exploitation and abuse of 18 vulnerable young men aged 17-25 who came to him for guidance and support. He was released from prison in February after serving just 16 months.

Gibb also criticises ex-Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey in her report, whom she cites as being largely responsible for the inexcusable way in which allegations were swept under the carpet. When complaints were first made about Bishop Ball, Ball went straight to the Church and other senior figures within the clergy and the Royal Family to seek out support and protection, including the then Archbishop, Lord Carey who obliged by writing a letter of support which was sent to the police and the CPS. (You can read the letters from Carey and others here).

Carey has now been asked to step down from his position as an honorary assistant bishop by the current archbishop, Justin Welby.

In her report, “Abuse Of Faith”, Dame Moira Gibb says the Church “displayed little care” for Bishop Ball’s victims,”  and that its “failure to safeguard so many boys and young men still casts a long shadow”.

Crucially, the report also confirms that Bishop Ball had suggested “on many occasions, to Lord Carey and others, that he enjoys the status of confidant of the Prince of Wales” and “sought to exploit his contact with members of the royal family in order to bolster his position”.

Those of you following this blog will be familiar with Bishop Peter Ball and brothers, Phil and Gary Johnson who have campaigned tirelessly to bring Ball, and the Church, to justice. An exchange between Phil and Baroness Butler-Sloss, disgraced former Chair of the Child Abuse Inquiry, which we wrote about two years ago, highlights the extent of the collusion, with high profile believers desperate to preserve the Church’s standing. In the recording we shared, you can hear Butler-Sloss’s attempts at defending the Church and minimising allegations of abuse at the same time.

Phil Johnson spoke to the BBC in 2016 about Lord Carey’s involvement in the cover up of allegations against Bishop Ball, highlighting that the Church had deliberately hidden police evidence on the matter.

Things came to a head in August of last year, when it was confirmed that Bishop Ball had been granted Core Participant Status at the Child Abuse Inquiry, leaving his victims and survivors feeling re-traumatised at the possibility of being cross examined by him.

Phil also wrote a statement in September 2016 criticising the CPS’s decision to reduce Ball’s sentence.

Dame Moira Gibb’s report will be a welcome development for survivors and victims and we hope that it will bring about a change in the culture at the Church of England and lead to better safeguarding measures being put into place.

For a full list of articles on Bishop Peter Ball, please take a look at our site.

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Former Minister Calls On Social Workers To Boost Mobility, Completely Unaware Of The Pitfalls

A former Labour Minister has called on social workers to play a much bigger part in boosting the life chances of children and families they work with, in a speech delivered recently at a social work training event.

The speech Alan Milburn makes highlights how little he understands the social work sector and the enormous pressure it is under, and the economic landscape that is currently suffocating working families. That Alan is also chair of the social mobility commission throws into sharp relief just how serious this is.

During the event Alan makes some key points. He says the profession is one of the biggest “under leveraged assets” when it comes to supporting children and families. Whilst the sector is suffering from budget cuts and a dwindling lack of resources, it has also had its fair share of funding which it squandered through poor management, well meaning but ultimately toxic financial incentives and the kind of breath taking incompetence that has resulted in serious case review after serious case review. The social work sector is not an under leveraged asset, it is a barren one which needs to be rebuilt with better training programmes, a solid infrastructure rolled out nationwide and a central mandate that demands only the highest standards from its professionals. All of this has to happen before we can even think about giving the child protection sector greater powers to support parents in need of help.

Alan also told social workers that they have a part to play in “trying to nudge and encourage and support parents to do the basics of parenting. To foster their kids’ abilities, to read to them, to provide some basic opportunities.”

Milburn places the inequalities children from vulnerable and low income families face squarely on the shoulders of their parents. This is a basic mistake which you wouldn’t expect a politician or chair of a mobility committee to make. It’s already widely established that parents who fit into these demographics are usually under enormous strain themselves, and have no time to read to their children for example, often working two or more jobs and worrying first about the basics like feeding their families. This is a point Milburn touches on but he seems blithely unaware that a lack of food in the home isn’t borne out of parents’ laziness to feed their children but an inability to make ends meet thanks to austerity cuts, and politicians more interested in sound bites and scamming votes.

Social workers should not be fooled by this thinly veiled attempt to get them on side. The profession can be a force for good, but it will have to do this through internal reflection and not be lulled into a false sense of security by schmoozing former cabinet ministers whose main interest in the social work sector and its professionals is purely political.

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Law Ending Child Marriage In New York Comes Into Effect

A bill raising the minimum age for marriage from 14 to 17 in New York has been signed into law by Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo.

Human Rights Watch campaigned vigorously for the move,  resulting in a law being passed in New York State today, which bans all marriage of children under the age of 17, and allows 17 year olds to marry only with permission from a judge.

Website Unchained At Last offers the following stats on child marriage in the state:

“3,853 children were married in New York between 2000 and 2010, many with significant age differences. In 2011 alone, a 14-year-old married a 26-year-old in New York, and a 15-year-old married someone age “35 to 39.” A 15-year-old was wed to a 28-year-old. Another 15-year-old was wed to a 25-year-old. All those marriages required approval from New York judges.”

Whilst there is some debate over whether laws raising the age of consent for marriage will protect all vulnerable children being forced into unions against their will, largely because a significant portion of child marriages around the world happen informally and go undetected as a result, the new law will act as a deterrent and provide much needed protection against adults seeking to marry vulnerable minors, often in order to traffick them.

The legislation is a wonderful start to tackling child marriage in the state. The next step for New York will be to reach out to those communities still sanctioning child marriage and engage with them, so that a dialogue around the practice can begin and new ways of nurturing children within those communities are developed.

Human Rights Watch has published an excellent summary on the day’s events, which you can read here. Many congratulations to HRW and other organisations who fought tirelessly for this new law.

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European Court Orders Charlie Gard’s Life Support To Continue, Despite Legal Challenge

Charlie Gard’s life support must continue for at least another three weeks, so that the European Court Of Human Rights (ECHR) can come to a decision about whether or not Charlie will undergo pioneering treatment in America.

The Supreme Court has, reluctantly, extended the deadline, allowing Charlie to remain on life support until midnight on 10/11 July.  (Para 20 – and thank you to John Bolch over at Family Lore for drawing our attention to this document).

The decision sits awkwardly with a legal challenge which has been mounted by Great Ormond Street, the hospital overseeing Charlie’s care. Great Ormond Street’s lawyers are arguing that the ECHR has no authority to request or order an extension of Charlie’s life support pending their decision to hear the case. The ECHR have countered this claim by pointing to their regulations which allow for such an order to be made where removal of treatment during the Court’s deliberation would lead to a “real risk of irreversible harm.”

This is an incredibly difficult situation, where medical opinions about the chances of success and survival are based on highly subjective evidence. You can watch the Supreme Court had down its decision, below. Meanwhile, Great Ormond Street has also released an FAQ on the case.