Child Abuse Inquiry WILL hear Ealing Abbey Allegations

Welcome to another week.

After leaving survivors and victims furious when it suggested that an investigation into serious child sexual abuse allegations at schools run by Ealing Abbey monks would be dropped, The inquiry has backtracked and confirmed that it will now hear evidence on the allegations at hearings scheduled for November and December, but not before the criminal proceedings on the matter are concluded.

Inquiry Chair, Alexis Jay’s statement from the IICSA website is added below:

Following the preliminary hearing this week, the Chair of the Inquiry has announced a decision in regard to the English Benedictine case study hearing in the Roman Catholic Church investigation.  Prof Alexis Jay’s decision is as follows:

“One of the issues for determination arising out of this hearing is whether or not evidence should be heard in relation to Ealing Abbey/St Benedict’s during the English Benedictine Congregation (EBC) case study hearing due to commence on 27 November 2017 and continue in December 2017.  Related to this is the issue as to whether or not the EBC hearing should be adjourned so as to enable such evidence to be heard alongside the evidence relating to the other EBC institutions currently proposed for investigation at that hearing.

Having considered all of the submissions, my decision is that the EBC hearing should take place as planned in November and December 2017 and that evidence in relation to Ealing Abbey/St Benedict’s will be heard but not before the relevant criminal proceedings have concluded. Reasons for this decision and my decisions in respect of any other matters will follow.”

The news will no doubt be welcomed by survivors and victims.

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European Court Rules Charlie Gard Must Stay On Life Support For A Week

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Charlie Gard, a little boy with a rare condition which has left him on life support, must continue receiving treatment for a week whilst the court considers the case. 

Charlie’s parents attended an emergency hearing at the Supreme Court yesterday to ask permission to appeal the decision to turn off their 10 month old baby’s life support, and allow them to travel to America with Charlie for pioneering treatment which could improve his condition. Their appeal was turned down, and so their legal team appealed to the European Court.

The team will be arguing that the decision is in direct breach of Charlie’s and his parents’ right to family life under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act.

The ECHR hopes to make a statement on Tuesday as to whether it will accept the case. In the meantime it has ordered that Charlie must stay on life support, which was due to be switched off today, until it has come to a decision. This is an exceptional measure, which the ECHR is able to make under its current regulations, as removing Charlie’s treatment would lead to a “real risk of irreversible harm.”

As a result of this development, the Supreme Court’s decision has effectively been put on hold. Lady Hale, one of the three justices taking part in the hearing at the Supreme Court, still remains one of our favourite judges despite taking what we felt was a narrow view of the law in relation to the ‘significant harm’ threshold and its context. She makes a poignant observation:

“Any court will have the utmost sympathy for parent exploring every possible way of preserving the life of their baby son… As parents we would be all likely to do the same. … However, as judges, we are concerned only with the legal position.”

So what is the legal position? Charlie’s parents’ legal team had argued that the decision to switch off life support and seek out alternative treatment should rest with his parents unless it could be shown that to do so would cross the ‘risk of significant harm’ threshold. This threshold is part check list, part subjective reasoning, which is what makes it more fluid in nature, and therefore its terms more dynamic than those found in legislation. It was specially designed that way, by Lady Hale, so that it could respond to child welfare developments as they came about. However the Supreme Court judges took the view that the hospital was entitled to bring proceedings and that this right had to be prioritised over any new interpretation given on the concept of significant harm.

We would modestly disagree. Courts create precedent, which is the active interpretation of the law as it should be applied in society at any given moment in time. This case should have benefited from that process in its purest sense.

Researching Reform wishes Charlie Gard and his family luck for the next appeal.

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Your Story: Complaints As A Short Cut To Care

This week’s story highlights the often disorganised and emotional responses to vulnerable families, which can lead to professionals losing sight of the real issues in a case and instead choosing to take a defensive stance to protect their local authority’s decisions, even when they are poor ones. Crucially, this kind of behaviour deeply affects the Voice Of The Child, whose wishes and feelings go unheard, causing them significant emotional harm.

1. Could you give a brief summary of the facts of your case?

I’m a single father who before his son was taken into care was the sole and primary carer. It was incredibly difficult juggling work and parenting on my own and on a couple of occasions I was forced to leave my nine year old son in the house on his own for a few hours. The incidents were reported to the police and I was charged with child neglect, although the charge was later dropped. Nevertheless my son was taken into care. He was routinely pin ponged backwards and forwards from my care to state care and then foster care – initially returned to me because I protested relentlessly but found himself back in care because I refused to let the poor handling of our case go. I chose to seek compensation for my son’s removal and shortly after that, the council involved changed its mind about revoking the care order. I’m still fighting to get my son back.

2. What went wrong in your  case?

The evidence used to take my son into care was contradictory and based on factual errors. For example, a video of police raiding my home was used as evidence that my home was in disarray, but the video does not show a badly kept home. This was confirmed by one of the judges in the case, who said the video was completely at odds with the police report. I later received an apology from the CPS. This, however, didn’t stop the situation. I was also diagnosed with a mental health disorder linked to my culture and religion because I dared to complain about our treatment, which I found irrational and offensive. Three other, independent doctors also examined me and found no evidence of any mental health disorder. My son also desperately wanted to stay in my care, but his wishes and feelings were continuously ignored. After some time in foster care, he was a changed person. He began to show signs of aggression and depression after he became addicted to a violent video game, which I was blamed for even though he was not in my care. I also found the more I complained, the more our contact was reduced. I now only see my son 4 times a year.

3. What happened after you alerted the professionals to the errors?

They refused to look at the evidence properly. Anything I said which flew in the face of their decisions or perceptions was ignored and treated as a hostile act. It’s an unnaturally defensive environment which seems to focus on the best interests of the agencies, rather than the child.

4. How do you feel the errors were dealt with?

They weren’t, except to say that they were met with deep resistance.

5. What do you think could have been done differently?

I could have been offered some support as a single, working parent. Someone could have helped me find a way to juggle my work with my parenting responsibilities. Instead I was treated like I was subhuman, and below normal levels of intelligence – I’m a classically trained musician, who speaks several languages.

6. What message would you like to pass on to the child welfare system?

I think the system needs to bin ‘emotional harm’ and ‘future emotional harm’ as the criteria used to take children into care and that only in exceptional circumstances, and only through the criminal courts, should the state have the power to remove children from parents. I would also like to see the police receive greater funding to deal with serious crimes against children rather than allowing social services to be involved in the first instance. Social workers should be directed by the police in an investigation. All the money this would save could be spent on helping families and support parents to find work. I would like to see a bonus system in place for social workers too, every time a social worker manages to keep a family together.

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Charlie Gard’s Parents Go To European Court After Supreme Court Denies Appeal

The Supreme Court has this afternoon, rejected Charlie Gard’s parents’ appeal to keep him on life support and travel to America for pioneering treatment. They have said Charlie can stay on life support for 24 hours whilst the parents appeal to the European Court Of Human Rights.

Our thoughts are with Charlie, his parents and family.

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London Live Speaks With Researching Reform About Charlie Gard And The Supreme Court

Charlie Gard, a baby boy with a rare genetic condition is due to have his life support cut off tonight at midnight, unless the parents’ legal team can convince the Supreme Court that it is in his best interests to delay the decision.

That is what his parents are arguing today at an emergency hearing. London Live spoke to Researching Reform about the case and whether we felt the parents’ decision to keep fighting for Charlie was rational or whether their love for their son had made them less objective.

We explained the reasons for the hearing today and what possible arguments the parents’ legal team might be making. We also told London Live that we were in favour of Charlie going to America for the treatment, because the evidence supporting the view that the pioneering treatment would not work did not exist and that medical opinion in the case was largely subjective.

We very much hope that the Supreme Court will halt the decision to switch off Charlie’s life support tonight, and agree to a full hearing so that the parents can invite the Court to reconsider Charlie’s options, and allow him to travel to America for treatment.

If you have a moment, do read the Appeal Court judgment,  if only to read the American doctor’s statement where he suggests that treatment could benefit Charlie, evidence which continues to be ignored by the judges involved in this case. There is also an interesting paragraph where Justice McFarlane highlights two grounds which he felt were powerful enough on their own to grant permission to appeal, and reference to the Ashya King case which we made ourselves in April as a strong case against allowing highly subjective and pessimistic medical views to get in the way of alternative treatment and parents’ gut instinct which is often right.

Thank you to the amazing team at London Live for inviting us on to the programme. You can catch them over on Twitter at @LondonLive.

London Live Charlie Gard 8 June 2017

 

 

 

Social Worker Struck Off After Lie Which Led To Children Going Into Care

A social worker has been struck off after lying that a mother had threatened to kill herself and her three children, and burn their house down.

The lies were directly responsible for the children being removed from the mother and placed into care. Whilst the HCPC doesn’t express this sentiment as directly as we do, saying that the lies ‘almost certainly’ led to the children’s removal, we are under no illusion that this conduct was directly responsible for the emergency protection orders issued.

Bizarrely, the social worker appeared to have no insight into her conduct. It also appears that she would have been allowed to continue to practice had she shown remorse or expressed some understanding of the consequences of her actions. No mention is made of how this affected the children or the extent of the harm done to their development and their mental health, although the complaints panel have confirmed that it caused ‘very real damage’ to the mother and the children.

Should we really allow child protection professionals who breach fundamental human rights in this way to practice, even if they take responsibility for their actions?

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Question It!

Welcome to another week.

The nation’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has once again caused an uproar by suggesting that it will be dropping another investigation, this time looking into alleged abuse at two schools run by Ealing Abbey Monks.

The allegations stemming from these two schools are some of the worst the Catholic Church has seen, and survivors and victims of child abuse are furious, accusing Chair Alexis Jay of failing to keep the Inquiry’s original scope and damaging its credibility at the same time.

Almost a week has gone by since this story broke and the Inquiry has not yet addressed the decision. No comment has been sent to the media and no statement published on its website.

Our question this week then, is this: do you think the Inquiry knows what it’s doing? 

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Child Abuse Inquiry Changes Its Social Media Approach – And It’s Brilliant

Mention the nation’s Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse and what most people remember are the fiascos over its Chairs and the seemingly never-ending conflicts of interest amongst its advisers. Few outside of Twitter will have noticed the Inquiry’s beleaguered twitter feed, which has caused considerable problems for the Inquiry, too.

The Inquiry’s refusal to investigate two catholic schools responsible for decades of abuse is the latest scandal to hit the headlines, and is an unfortunate development because whilst the project’s Twitter page has been a disaster in its own right, frustrating survivors and victims and damaging the Inquiry’s credibility, it is finally getting its act together.

The Inquiry’s initial social media approach featured an uninspiring Twitter feed populated with bland, almost mechanical updates on the Inquiry’s work but it was its ‘no engagement’ policy which angered victims and survivors the most, looking to the account for answers to questions that weren’t being answered by the Panel or the mainstream media. At its worst, the silence on the Twitter page forced survivors to look for important information through the press, which came to a head when victims’ personal statements were leaked and destroyed by an IT bungle at the Inquiry. 

The silence was interpreted as indifference by members of the public, and child abuse survivors who have strong links with the social media site, using it as both a lobbying platform and a way to highlight issues around child sexual abuse. It was a policy that cost the inquiry some of the small bit of goodwill it had managed to scrape back after its rocky start, and also highlighted the social media team’s complete lack of understanding around engagement and the nature of social media.

Within the last few days, a dramatic shift has taken place over on the Inquiry’s Twitter page. Gone is the utterly unmemorable logo (another, less important story) that was being used as the account’s background image and in its place a pleasant photo of Inquiry Chair Alexis Jay with a supportive message for survivors. The account has changed its handle from the slightly confusing @IICSA_Media to a much more focused handle – @InquiryCSA – and it is, at last, engaging with the public and the platform it is using.

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Occasional, robotic tweets about its meetings have been replaced with warmer, more accessible language describing the Inquiry’s work, and the sharing of information both from survivors, the media and the general public. The team is ‘liking’ messages of encouragement and featuring uplifting stories from survivors who have chosen to go public with their experience. It’s refreshing. And it’s working.

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To date the account doesn’t seem to have responded directly to individual questions, but hopefully this will come with time. Twitter is the perfect platform for supporting survivors and victims of abuse, offering the ability to both direct people to the right place and show the public a more human side to what is essentially a profoundly human project.

Researching Reform wishes the Inquiry’s social media team lots of luck. You can follow the Inquiry’s Twitter account here.

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Charlie Gard’s Parents To Appeal At Supreme Court

In the wake of Tuesday’s Appeal Court judgment which ruled that doctors could turn off baby Charlie’s life support , Charlie’s parents now plan to appeal the decision at the Supreme Court.

It is an incredibly difficult case, in which doctors and judges have had to balance the benefits of treatment with Charlie’s life expectancy, however Researching Reform remains unconvinced that enough evidence exists to support the Court of Appeal’s decision.

We wish the parents luck with their appeal.

If you’d like to read Researching Reform’s thoughts on the case you can do so here. You can also visit the dedicated Charlie Gard website for further information and updates.

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