- Start date: May 2013
- End date: April 2015
- Primary investigator: Professor Anna Lawson
- Co-investigators: Andrea Hollomotz, School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds; Rebecca Parry; plus nine international partners
This project was led by the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre, Budapest (MDAC) and its work streams were co-ordinated jointly by MDAC and the University of Leeds. It consisted of a collaboration between researchers from ten countries in the EU. Researchers had a variety of backgrounds – including academic, human rights advocacy and social work.
The project consisted of research in 10 EU countries into the extent to which children who have (or who are perceived to have) psychosocial disabilities or intellectual disabilities were able to access the justice system in practice. For purposes of clarity, it should be noted that while, in international debates, this terminology of ‘psychosocial’ and ‘intellectual’ disabilities is generally used, in the UK the terminology which is generally used is ‘mental health condition’ and ‘learning difficulty’.
The project focused on situations in which there were controversies about how a child who has (or who is perceived to have) psychosocial disabilities or intellectual disabilities – should be educated and where or with whom such a child should live; and on cases in which such a child is the victim or the alleged offender in criminal proceedings.
It sought to identify examples of good practice and also areas in which there was insufficient data and monitoring to comply with the obligations imposed by Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and any respects in which the rights of children with disabilities to access justice on an equal basis with others (as required by Articles 7 and 13 of that Convention) seemed not to be being fulfilled in practice.
The project aimed to draw on existing international human rights law and standards of best practice to formulate clear guidance on how access to justice for these children can be assured. Of particular relevance was the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Council of Europe’s Child Friendly Justice Guidelines. In addition, the project entailed advocating for the implementation of best practice across Europe and the development of training materials to support such efforts.
These included academic articles and conference papers as well as guidance on standards of best practice tailored specifically for cases involving children who have (or are perceived to have) psychosocial disabilities or intellectual disabilities and a package of associated online training materials.