Leader Dog’s prison puppy raising program pairs Future Leader Dogs with model prisoners who have demonstrated they can be trusted to provide 24/7 care to a puppy for up to a year.
Puppies raised in prison experience a higher success rate of becoming a Leader Dog and being placed with a client who is blind than those raised in a home setting. The program now places about 100 puppies per year with inmates.
There is a marked reduction in the rate of recidivism among prison puppy raisers and they express pride and gratitude for the chance to give something back to society.
The girls were seized from their school in northern Nigeria in April 2014
Some of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria have been forced to join Islamist militant group Boko Haram, the BBC has been told.
Witnesses say some are now being used to terrorise other captives, and are even carrying out killings themselves.
The testimony cannot be verified but Amnesty International says other girls kidnapped by Boko Haram have been forced to fight.
Boko Haram has killed some 5,500 civilians in Nigeria since 2014.
Two-hundred-and-nineteen schoolgirls from Chibok, are still missing, more than a year after they were kidnapped from their school in northern Nigeria. Many of those seized are Christians.
Three women who claim they were held in the same camps as some of the Chibok girls have told the BBC’s Panorama programme that some of them have been brainwashed and are now carrying out punishments on behalf of the militants.
Seventeen-year-old Miriam (not her real name) fled Boko Haram after being held for six months. She was forced to marry a militant, and is now pregnant with his child.
Recounting her first days in the camp she said: “They told to us get ready, that they were going to marry us off.”
She and four others refused.
Human cost of Boko Haram
219 of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok by Boko Haram in April 2014 are still missing.
They are among at least 2,000 women and girls abducted by Boko Haram since the start of 2014 (Amnesty figures)
Since the start of 2014 Boko Haram has killed an estimated 5,500 civilians in north-east Nigeria (Amnesty figures)
“They came back with four men, they slit their throats in front of us. They then said that this will happen to any girl that refuses to get married,”
Faced with that choice, she agreed to marry, and was then repeatedly raped.
“There was so much pain,” she said. “I was only there in body… I couldn’t do anything about it.”
While in captivity, Miriam described meeting some of the Chibok schoolgirls. She said they were kept in a separate house to the other captives.
Miriam is pregnant with the child of a member of Boko Haram
“They told us: ‘You women should learn from your husbands because they are giving their blood for the cause. We must also go to war for Allah.'”
She said the girls had been “brainwashed” and that she had witnessed some of them kill several men in her village.
“They were Christian men. They [the Boko Haram fighters] forced the Christians to lie down. Then the girls cut their throats.”
It is not possible to independently verify Miriam’s claims. But human rights group Amnesty International said their research also shows that some girls abducted by Boko Haram have been trained to fight.
“The abduction and brutalisation of young women and girls seems to be part of the modus operandi of Boko Haram,” said Netsanet Belay, Africa director, research and advocacy at Amnesty International.
Amnesty International estimates more than 2,000 girls have been taken since the start of 2014. But it was the attack on the school in Chibok that sparked international outrage.
Michelle Obama made a rousing speech a few weeks after their abduction, demanding the girls’ return.
Millions of people showed their support for the #bringbackourgirls campaign. The hashtag was shared more than five million times.
Boko Haram has been trying to establish an Islamic State in the region, but it has recently been pushed back by a military force from Nigeria and its neighbours. Hundreds of women and girls have managed to escape during these raids.
Anna, aged 60, is one of them. She fled a camp in the Sambisa forest in December where she was held for five months. She now sits beneath a tree close to the cathedral in the Adamawa state capital of Yola. Her only possessions are the clothes she ran away in.
She said she saw some of the Chibok schoolgirls just before she fled the forest.
Media captionAnna, a former Boko Haram captive, claims some of the girls were forced to kill
When pressed on how she could be sure that it is was the Chibok schoolgirls that she’d seen, Anna said: “They [Boko Haram] didn’t hide them. They told us: ‘These are your teachers from Chibok.’
“They shared the girls out as teachers to teach different groups of women and girls to recite the Koran,” Anna recalled.
“Young girls who couldn’t recite were being flogged by the Chibok girls.”
Like Miriam, Anna also said she had seen some of the Chibok schoolgirls commit murder.
“People were tied and laid down and the girls took it from there… The Chibok girls slit their throats,” said Anna.
Anna said she felt no malice towards the girls she had seen taking part in the violence, only pity.
“It’s not their fault they were forced to do it.” she added. “Anyone who sees the Chibok girls has to feel sorry for them.”
Exposing women to extreme violence seemed to be a strategy used by Boko Haram to strip them of their identity and humanity, so they could be forced to accept the militants’ ideology.
Faith, a Christian, says Boko Haram fighters tried to convert her to their version of Islam
Faith (not her real name) aged 16, who is Christian, described how Boko Haram fighters tried to force her to convert to their version of Islam.
“Every day at dawn they would come and throw water over us and order us to wake up and start praying.”
“Then one day they brought in a man wearing uniform. They made us all line up and then said to me: ‘Because you are always crying, you will must kill this man.’
“I was given the knife and ordered to cut his neck. I said I couldn’t do it.
“They cut his throat in front of me. That’s when I passed out.”
Faith said she had seen at least one Chibok schoolgirl who had been married off to a Boko Haram militant during her four months in captivity.
“She was just like any of the Boko Haram wives,” she explained. “We are more scared of the wives than the husbands.”
Long road to recovery
With hundreds of women and children recently rescued from Boko Haram strongholds in the Sambisa forest, the Nigerian government has set up a programme to help escapees.
Many fled captivity, only to discover that some or all of their family members had been killed by Boko Haram. Others have been cast out from their communities, who now consider them “Boko Haram wives”.
Dr Fatima Akilu is in charge of Nigeria’s counter-violence and extremism programme. She is currently looking after around 300 of the recently rescued women and children.
“We have not seen signs of radicalisation,” she told us. “But if it did occur we would not be surprised.”
And she added: “In situations where people have been held, there have been lots of stories where they have identified with their captors.”
Malnourished children being treated at Yola’s main hospital. They were recently rescued from the forest with their mother
Dr Akilu said beatings, torture, rape, forced marriages and pregnancies were common in Boko Haram camps.
“We have a team of imams… that are trained to look out for radical ideas and ideology.
“Recovery is going to be slow, it’s going to be long… It’s going to be bumpy.”
As the hunt for the Chibok schoolgirls continues, and questions are raised about what state they will be in if they ever return home, those who have managed to escape are beginning the mammoth task of coming to terms with their experiences.
“I can’t get the images out of my head,” said Anna, breaking down in tears. “I see people being slaughtered. I just pray that the nightmares don’t return.”
For others, the nightmare is continuing every day. Miriam is expecting her baby any day now.
“I hope that the baby is a girl,” she said. “I would love her more than any boy. I’m scared of having a boy.”
Miriam’s future is bleak. She is terrified her “husband” will find her and kill her for running away. Her community has also rejected her.
“People consider me an outcast,” she said.
“They remind me that I have Boko Haram inside me.”
Panorama: The Missing Stolen School Children is on BBC One at 20:30 BST on Monday 29 June and available later via iPlayer.
Abbie* is retelling the story of her first child sexual exploitation case: a 14-year-old girl, with an extensive history of involvement with children’s services, had stopped engaging with her family and social workers and started a relationship with a man in his 20s.
The man was emotionally and physically abusive, pursuing a sexual relationship with the girl and refusing to use contraception. As a result, the teenager would become pregnant and he would insist she had the baby terminated. This happened three times.
It was while removing the girl from the man’s house that Abbie learned just how different this was from other sexual abuse cases.
“He was really dismissive of her,” she recalls. “Yet she was absolutely, in her mind, attached to him. She was in love with him, he was her boyfriend, he meant everything. This disparity between the perpetrator’s feelings and her feelings really struck me, and how unequal that relationship was and how exploitative he was being.”
Abbie has worked in social care since 2005 and has been a child protection social worker since 2009. Currently, she works in a London authority as a specialist social worker responding to cases of child sexual exploitation.
As we talk, she describes the emotional toll these cases take: the heartbreak when a developing relationship with a young person experiences a set-back; how, in the face of rising demand, it’s only going to get tougher to support them and her frustration at the systems making cases more difficult.
Children in need, child protection, assessment and intervention processes are all set up around inter-familial situations, she says, whereas in cases of sexual exploitation, the significant harm is happening externally.
“Child protection systems aren’t set up for sexual exploitation,” she explains. “Young people don’t get the same response as more typical or traditional cases of abuse.
“I will often hear social workers and managers say: ‘There is no point putting this young person on a child in need plan, [or] a child protection plan. What’s it going to do? The family isn’t the problem,’” she says.
As a result, children who have suffered sexual exploitation are rarely afforded the same response as other cases of sexual abuse. Sadly, she says: “It sometimes feels like the threshold for child sexual exploitation is 10 times higher.”
The system for sexual exploitation cases feels very separate from child protection processes, Abbie admits. They are also tied to police and judicial responses, making this feel like a very time consuming, completely different branch of child protection.
She explains: “Our response is 100% affected by lack of experience, lack of understanding, lack of capacity. Child sexual exploitation cases can take a huge amount of time – because we’ve made this system that we work with separate – and not all social workers have the capacity to do what is asked of them.”
Abbie feels children’s services are “covering things up with quick fixes” and wants to see teenage victims approached in the way a five-year-old suffering inter-familial abuse would be. “We’re focusing on the incident of exploitation, rather than the child.”
Perversely rising thresholds
She would also like to see a less punitive response to sexual exploitation, with less reliance on placing victims in secure units, and the abuse more successfully integrated into the threshold of significant harm.
Alongside the frustrations of the system, there is also the issue of increasing demand;Community Care’s investigation has today revealed that referrals for child sexual exploitation rose by nearly a third last year.
Why are referrals rising so quickly? Abbie believes it is due to growing awareness of the abuse. However, she warns that, perversely, the more referrals children’s services receive, the higher thresholds will become.
As a result, there is a growing dependency on voluntary agencies. “One of the key frustrations is that social workers want to be the one to do the direct work. They want to be building the relationships, but they can’t and they don’t,” she admits.
“They end up having to make referrals to voluntary services to do that work and then it’s another professional in that child’s life, and more coordination for the social worker to do.”
Frustration appears to be the overriding feeling for Abbie: frustration with the systems social workers operate in and frustration at having to pass on key work to other agencies.
Besides frustration, what emotional toll do these cases take? “Naturally, you reflect on your own adolescence and what you went through, and you remember how tough it is to be a teenager. “So, you put yourself and your knowledge of how difficult it was into their situation. And you just think: ‘It’s 10 times worse.’”
*Name has been changed
Do you need guidance on working with victims of sexual exploitation?
Adoptive parent and founder of charity, The Open Nest, Amanda Boorman says too much focus is placed on recruitment, not support of adopters
Photo: Gary Brigden
The general consensus, according to the popular press, is that the current Conservative adoption reforms are well intentioned. Michael Gove and Edward Timpson, with personal experience of adoption and fostering, have been the good guys. With consistent rhetoric of zero tolerance towards child neglect and a healthy Department for Education budget to back it up, the reform messages are ones that place adoption as the golden permanence option for children unable to live with their first families.
Good intentions can however, if not informed of the bigger picture, become just intentions. Intention to put the rights of children first, to provide opportunity, to share the many positives of adoption, to save money, to ultimately provide a win-win situation.
As the reform rolls out I become increasingly uncomfortable about where the good intentions will land those of us living in the world of adoption and those stepping into the journey as recent recruits.
I adopted 16 years ago. My intentions to become a parent by adoption were to make a loving commitment, to help a child waiting for a family. It was a somewhat naive decision to parent a child I didn’t “own” based upon reading of the plight of thousands of children “languishing” in care. I responded to an advert. It nudged me as adverts are intended to do.
Despite being a qualified social worker, I was completely unprepared for what unfolded into my life through adoption. Effected by dismal parenting skills, followed by systemic failure to support her birth family properly, my daughter was firmly rooted in what is now labelled as trauma based behaviour. Without exaggeration we stepped onto a rollercoaster that didn’t stop lurching up and down at high speed for over a decade, culminating in a devastating teenage derailment when my runaway daughter was severely harmed.
Within this process I was not a passive bystander. I fought constantly to gain the right support. I faced blank faces, brick walls, blame, shame and financial difficulty. By the time my daughter was 18, we hated social workers.
We began forming as Martin Narey’s report on adoption was published in The Times newspaper. The same newspaper I had written an article for several years earlier. An article from an adoptive parents perspective, urging Tony Blair to get adoption reform right. To become trauma aware, to train and supervise social workers properly, to fully understand adoptees and to support therapeutic interventions for all involved.
When we saw the recent reform intentions, read professor of social work at the University of Bristol, Julie Selwyn’s research that recorded the struggles adoptees face and heard the talk of support, we felt hopeful that finally there was very real potential for change. Other families would not have to face the intense challenges we had. On closer inspection however, the priority of current reform seems firmly based in recruitment.
Millions has been awarded to local authorities to improve their marketing and promotion of adoption. An increase in the speed and numbers of adoptions taking place is expected in return and a funded framework of centralising services away from local authorities is waiting in the wings for those authorities who fail.
Private and voluntary adoption and support organisations have been grouped together via Department for Education funding and an implied compliance via places on reform boards, to streamline the marketing of adoption as the premium permanence solution, as well as develop adoption support products.
As an outsider it’s tricky to trace the money, but in the language of approximates there has been around £250 million put into reform. Only £19.5 million of this into the adoption support fund, and for one year only.
Lack of support
Regular calls to our charity as well as research within the adoption community, show that all is not well. Social workers and teachers have not been given the advanced training needed to understand the complexities of adoption support, appropriate assessments for complex needs have not improved in many areas, adoptees’ rights to quality life story and family contact management are not promoted, there is no mention of specialist support for transracial adoptees.
The varied voices of adult adoptees seem to have been left out of the reform process altogether. There is no independent adult adoptee on any of the expert boards driving the changes. An opportunity to deliver transformative and long lasting responses to adoption support has potentially been missed by excluding those it affects the most.
I don’t hate social workers anymore. Seeing policy around adoption reform rolled I out feel concerned that they may be scapegoated, again, as the ones that “let the side down”.
Municipal building in Dorset. Photo: Elliott Brown/ flickr
Putting adult social care on a more commercial basis will help to protect against redundancies and changes to terms and conditions, a council has claimed.
However, unions have questioned the move, warning terms and conditions will still be at risk if the company is unable to raise extra revenue from the private sector.
£38m trading company
Adult care services in Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole are due to be incorporated into a trading partnership on 1 July.
The £38m local authority trading company, known as Tricuro, will be able to seek business outside of the local authority from private individuals, for example, those who require re-ablement services. It follows similar arrangements undertaken in local authorities like Wokingham, North Hamptonshire and the London Borough of Barnet.
A council spokesperson said the move was the only way to give social care staff a “fighting chance” against the threats of central government cuts.
Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations (TUPE) dictate terms and conditions can only be changed with the agreement of the authority.
But, Unison assistant branch secretary, Ken Attwool, said it was unclear how expected savings would be made if the company was unable to raise extra revenue in the private sector.
“The concern is they will seek savings from the staffing budget because that’s where the big numbers are. The terms and conditions are naturally going to be where they look and that’s a huge concern to us.”
Attwool does not believe the local authority has any bad intentions, but fears their hands will be tied once the trading company is launched and they are forced to make demonstrable savings in line with the business case laid out in setting up the trading company.
“The local authority trading company is not going to be immune from austerity cuts. The only place they will be able to make savings is the staff budget. The issue is once it is launched, if those numbers don’t happen the local authority will be forced to look at the terms and conditions because there’s nowhere else to go.”
Sickness and absence
He said he thought the authority would have to start looking at changes to terms and conditions within the first 12 months and areas such as sickness and absence allowances and pay would be the first to be cut.
Jane Portman, director for adults and children services at Bournemouth Council, said: “Constraints placed on the public sector meant we couldn’t be as flexible, adaptable and efficient as our independent sector counterparts, or generate income above cost recovery.
“The extension of our already excellent joint working relationships to the formation of a local authority trading company for adult social care seemed a natural one, which will bring benefits not just to the local authorities, but to our service users too.”
Shaun Webster, who has learning disabilities, campaigns for learning disabled people to be much more visible in our communities at home and abroad
Shaun Webster, who has been awarded an MBE for his work campaigning for equal opportunities for people with learning disabilities. Photograph: Jon Super/Jon Super
Shaun Webster endured frequent ridicule from colleagues when he worked in a warehouse, sweeping the floor. In the 12 years since quitting the job, Webster, 43, who has a learning disability, has devoted himself to campaigning for equal opportunities for people with learning disabilities. As an international project worker for the Leeds-based human rights charity Change, he is a sought-after speaker and trainer in the UK and overseas, advising government departments on inclusive employment, promoting access to sex and health education for learning disabled people and on training health, social care and charity professionals in independent living and disability rights.
Webster’s efforts were recognised in this year’s Queen’s birthday honours list with an MBE. He describes the award as an official “two fingers” to his ex-colleagues at the warehouse. While the abuse he suffered there was mostly verbal, he recalls the occasional box being lobbed at him and a “joke” when he was bound with sticky tape and a rag stuffed in his mouth.
“I was being bullied,” he recalls. “I thought: ‘I will be nothing.’ I felt tiny, small.” When he reported the abuse, regarded by the perpetrators as workplace tomfoolery, it would stop temporarily, then resume. Webster says: “What was the point? I’d get called a ‘grass’.”
Webster criticises the government for failing to take a holistic approach to the issue. “Paid employment and independent living aren’t seen together – but they are one. I’ve been working most of my life, I need that to be independent. The money gives me opportunities to do things I always wanted to do – live on my own, go to the pub, go shopping, do everything that people do,” he says.
Webster, from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, works three days a week, earning £23,000 a year, pro rata. A grant from the government’s Access to Work fund covers computer costs and pays for someone to help with paperwork two mornings a week. He receives disability living allowance and any help he needs at home, such as filling out forms, is provided by the charity, KeyRing.
Change’s model of inclusive employment means people with learning disabilities are hired in senior, salaried roles and supported by non-learning disabled “co-workers”. This method, says Webster, means staff develop skills and interests, instead of being paid lip service and shoehorned into menial jobs. “People with learning disabilities want a proper job,” he says, “not just pushing trolleys, but the attitude is ‘you have a job – be grateful’.”
His passion for raising people’s aspirations is also rooted in his childhood. The special school to which he was sent at eight was “a waste of time”, he says, with no careers advice. At age 14, he recalls being “knocked for six” when his father, from whom he is estranged, called him “a dummy”. “He said I’d never get a job, never live on my own or have relationships.” Webster has accomplished all this, and more. He and his childhood sweetheart had three children before they separated. He is now a grandfather of two toddlers and lives in community-based supported housing.
His current focus is a partnership between Change and the children’s charity Lumos, founded by JK Rowling. The Europe-wide project supports the closure of long-stay institutions for young people with learning disabilities and aims to improve services in the community.
“They’re doing it faster in Europe, building small group homes and getting people into the community, here they’re dragging their feet, still putting money into care homes. Other countries are less scared, ready to work with people with learning disabilities,” says Webster.
So what’s the problem? “Attitude,” he says. “There are lots of examples of community living, like KeyRing [a supported living accommodation provider], but it’s not rolled out.” As for commissioners still placing people in institutional-style environments instead of community-based care, “they’re just stuck in their little world, they can’t see what’s out there”.
Recently, he visited the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Moldova to train health and social care professionals on de-institutionalisation and to mentor young people in care to become better self-advocates. “A young lady from Bulgaria said ‘I want to be like you’. She used to live in an institution and wanted to be a role model. Now she mentors children moving out of institutional care,” he says.
Does Webster sense a tipping point in disability rights, with the emergence of grassroots campaigns, such as the Learning Disability Alliance England and the Justice for LB campaign, to strengthen the rights of individuals and their families, or the self-advocacy group People First England? “It’s starting,” he says, “but we need to make it louder … people want to have proper jobs, to live in the community and not be vulnerable or patronised.”
To challenge the status quo, says Webster, people with learning disabilities – there are 1.4 million in the UK – should be more visible in communities. Politicians must be engaged, he adds. “Before they become MPs, they need to be trained by people with learning disabilities about issues like hate crime, being isolated, living on benefits.” Webster has no interest in being an MP but says a political party of people with learning disabilities might be an idea: “We need our own party to get our voice across to government because we’re the experts in real life.”
Championing the fact that people with learning disabilities can, should, and do have the same “real life” as everyone else, with a job, home and family life, is what drives Webster. He says becoming a father and grandfather are among his proudest moments, along with the MBE. His 12-year-old daughter, who lives with Webster’s former partner in Sheffield, admires her father’s achievements. “My daughter says, ‘My dad works to make things better for people with learning disabilities’”.
The stereotyping of people with disabilities as either scroungers or superheroes is, he says, frustrating: “You have the extremes, but there’s a whole bunch in the middle ground. I have a learning disability, but it doesn’t define me.”
Lives Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
Family Single, three children, two grandchildren.
Education Rotherham College of Arts and Technology (no qualifications); Abbey special school, Rotherham.
Career 2012-present: international project worker, Change; 2003-12: project worker, Change; 1996-2003: warehouse worker, Currys; 1991-96: handyman, Swallow Hotel, Rotherham.
Public life MBE 2015, for services to people with learning disabilities and their families.
Interests Science fiction films, cartoons, spending time with friends.
So Justin Tomlinson is the new Minister for Disabled people, the 5th Minister in 5 years. Much has been said over the past few days about his voting record, but what is maybe more striking is his total lack of interest in disability issues as evidenced by his Parliamentary record. This did not prevent him voting, and sometimes very strongly, in a way which has made life much more difficult for disabled people, either in favour of the bedroom tax, against raising benefits in line with prices, or paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability etc.
The press and social media have picked up on two of his most inhuman votes in the House of Commons:
The refusal to make an exception for those with a cancer diagnosis or undergoing cancer treatment from the 365 day limit on receiving contributions-based Employment and Support Allowance, which means that these claimants are only entitled to one year of support, and to refuse to set the lower rate of the Universal Credit payment in relation to disabled children and young people at a minimum of two-thirds of the higher rate. Read a very good article by Jenny Morris which explains the twisted thinking behind it
Nor does he seem to be very keen on human rights and equality for all, and voted in 2012 to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998, and to remove the duty of the CEHR (Commission for Equality and Human Rights) to work to support the development of a society where people’s ability to achieve their potential is not limited by prejudice or discrimination and there is respect for human rights. Put otherwise, he is not opposed per se to prejudice or discrimination.
While there is no doubt that the new Minister for Disabled People is not of the progressive type, his voting record reveals what has been the main objective of this government over the past five years, which is to reduce the welfare bill and specifically the disability benefits component. Behind all the rhetoric of disabled people being stuck on disability benefits (disproved by statistics), of disability being a ‘lifestyle’ choice, and of helping disabled people to achieve their potential by ‘helping’ them get a job, what his appointment highlights is one of the greatest failures of this government. After tightening even further a disability assessment devised under Labour and geared to reduce the claimant count by 1 million, after restricting the duration of entitlement for people receiving contributions based ESA to 365 days, afterputting disabled people through 4.8 million assessments, and after applying sanctions to 3000 disabled people each and every month as admitted by McVey in her evidence to the W&P Committee Q248 , the claimant count today is roughly similar to what it was in 2010 and the government had to constantly revise its expenditure forecasts.
Not only is the number of disability benefit claimants on the rise, but contrary to what the government would like us to believe, the number of disabled people who moved into work, although on the rise, has not narrowed the gap between the employment rate of disabled and non disabled people. And all this in spite of a very visible government campaign #disabilityconfident, which has made no difference whatsoever. At the same time, the government has been reducing the support disabled people need to work or to go to work: Access to Work has been initially reduced and now capped, the Independent Living Fund will close at the end of June 2015, and 3,000 out of 8,000 users have lost their motability vehicles following the introduction of PIP.
With this appointment, the government is flying its true colours. But disabled people have proved to be proud and defiant. They have not gone away quietly. They have been fighting, challenging the government and exposing it for what it is. Whether it is on the streets or on social media, disabled people have made disability a visible issue, and have exposed the callousness of this government. With £12bn of welfare cuts in the pipeline, the fight must go on.
Cheshire West ruling has led to several AMHP teams facing surge in requests for Mental Health Act assessments, report finds
Picture: Charlie Milligan
The fallout from a landmark Supreme Court ruling on deprivation of liberty is putting Approved Mental Health Professional services under ‘unprecedented pressure’, according to new research.
A report published by The College of Social Work’s AMHP network reveals that the March 2014 Supreme Court ruling, known as the ‘Cheshire West’ ruling, has triggered a surge in requests for Mental Health Act assessments at some local authorities. The ruling has also provoked anxieties among some practitioners over the interface between the Mental Capacity Act and Mental Health Act and when each framework should be applied for deprivation of liberty cases on psychiatric wards, the report found.
AMHPs are the group of mostly, but not exclusively, social workers who coordinate Mental Health Act assessments. One respondent said their AMHP team had seen “unprecedented” requests for Mental Health Act assessments in the wake of the ruling. A second respondent said their team had witnessed a “doubling” in assessments that has left AMHPs unable to “give the time they would otherwise have done to the people on their caseloads”.
The Supreme Court ruling
The Supreme Court ruling effectively lowered the threshold for what constitutes deprivation of liberty in care.
In doing so, it broadened the group of people in care homes, hospitals (including mental health wards) and other settings that are likely to require any deprivation of their liberty to be authorised under a legal framework.
Where a patient is in hospital to receive treatment for a mental disorder and lacks the capacity to consent to their care then, in principle, there are some cases where either a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (Dols) authorisation or detention under the Mental Health Act are options. Professionals must decide which legal framework is the most appropriate. Relevant factors include whether the person is objecting to the care arrangements or not.
The report, authored by Emad Lilo, the vice chair of the AMHP network, gathered feedback on the ruling’s impact from AMHPs working in 24 local authorities. It found that the ruling’s implications were most for local authorities where a large proportion of best interests assessors – specially trained staff who coordinate Dols cases – were drawn from their AMHP teams.
“The levels of activity have caused unprecedented pressure on already limited and stretched AMHP services across the country,” the report concluded.
“Notwithstanding this, there has been impressive response by services in working collaboratively and in partnerships with stakeholders including mental health trusts, higher education institutions and legal experts.”
The report makes nine recommendations. These include a recommendation that local authorities consider increasing their AMHP workforce capacity and for providers to put policies in place to deal with with circumstances where disagreement results in an inability to take a decision as to whether the Mental Health Act or Dols should be used to give legal authorisation to a deprivation of liberty.
Deprivation of liberty webinar
The report marks the latest evidence of the seismic impact the Cheshire West ruling has had on the health and care system. The judgement has also triggered a ten fold increase in Dols cases, with statutory timescales for assessments being breached as councils rack up case backlogs.
The government has asked the Law Commission to review the legal frameworks for authorising deprivation of liberty, including the Dols. Next week the Commission will publish its draft proposals for a new deprivation of liberty scheme. Tim Spencer-Lane, the lawyer leading on drafting the proposals, will present the draft framework at a free Community Care webinar on Tuesday 7 July. Sign-up here.
84 years ago Charlie Chaplin was at the height of his career, 84 years ago the very notion of a computer or instant coffee was pure science fiction. 84 years ago forced labour was still legal in at least 20 countries1 and an international law2 was established to end this horrific practice.
But the world has changed since then. Now 84 years later, we finally have a chance to update this law to protect against today’s slavery.
Just days ago the International Labour Organisation released two options3 to update this law, but only one will work. In just a few weeks every country will have a choice between weak, unenforceable guidelines and a strong new law.
After over 60 years of life you would think, that at least I should know who I am. But do I, lets see.
I was born in Sheffield UK in July and if you believe in the Signs of the Zodiac that would make me to be Cancer (The Crab).
Throughout my life, certainly my early life, I would appear to be a typical Cancerian. extremely sensitive, certainly in the company of others, not making conversation and where ever possible to try to blend into the background, so as not to be noticed. When introduced to someone new, I was always unsure what to say and in most cases said very little, except to acknowledge them by saying hello to them. But to then engage in any form of conversation, I would do my best to shy away from it, leaving it hopefully to others. This meant, as I found out later in life, gave the impression that I was rude, not interested and indifferent to people. But nothing could have been further from the truth, I just did not have the confidence to talk to people.
During my school years I was not fully aware of my sensitivity, although did easily become embarrassed in company, often to the point of blushing profusely. This made me feel even more uncomfortable in company.
When I left school and took up employment, my sensitivity did not appear be part of my every day existence, as with the training provided, I knew my subject material and had the confidence to use this knowledge when dealing with people in the profession I was in, which was dealing with Life Assurance and Pensions. I knew that I would never be able to gain the confidence to go and sell the products to others and therefore concentrated in dealing with the administration. During my 25 years in the insurance industry, I did progress throughout the company, albeit only in the Sheffield Branch, but did eventually succeed to become the Administration Manager of the Sheffield Branch. With the continuing promotion, I was becoming more aware of how my sensitivity was affecting myself in my professional role, especially when becoming the Administration Manager. When this only involved dealing with the subject relating to the various contracts, I could easily be involved in meetings and meeting people.
When it came to social occasions, this was when I had major problems, as Administration Manager I had to attend certain events and functions and I was always ill at ease when I had to enter into 'small talk' with others.