The last two months have been extremely busy both in terms of casework and at a strategic policy level. It has also marked two significant moments for our small team including the broadcasting of a BBC Panorama programme on deaths of children in mental health settings and the conclusions of the Hillsborough inquests.
We are now recruiting for a Research and Policy Officer and a Communications Officer to continue to build momentum and help support the team in its significant work. If you are interested in working for INQUEST, download the job descriptions here
On April 11th
BBC Panorama ‘‘I’m Broken Inside: Sara’s story’
featured the story of Sara Green, a 17 year old child who died whilst in the care of a private child mental health setting. INQUEST had supported Sara’s family through the investigation and inquest into her death and worked closely with Sara’s family and Panorama. Central to the programme was INQUEST’s extensive research which uncovered the lack of any coherent system to record or monitor deaths of child inpatient deaths in mental health settings; a gap which means that not one government department (Health or otherwise) is able to identify the number of children who have died
. This is compounded by the lack of an independent mechanism to investigate these deaths. The programme generated significant social media interest and touched the hearts of many and we received emails from people expressing concerns about the current mental health crisis affecting children and young people. It also generated parliamentary debate and prompted a meeting between INQUEST and the Minister for Community and Social Care, Alistair Burt at which he committed to addressing our concerns. INQUEST is conducting significant policy work on this area, and supporting other families whose children have died, including the family of Amy El-Keria, a 14 year old who died in another private child mental health setting in 2012 and whose inquest is on-going
of April, the Hillsborough inquests concluded, with jury findings that were a powerful expose of state and corporate failings. An inquest jury of ordinary men and women confirmed the truth about what happened; the 96 football fans who died in the 1989 Hillsborough
disaster were unlawfully killed, and the fans were exonerated of any blame.
Our Director Deborah Coles was in court with the families and described their courage and 27 year campaign for the truth against a backdrop of institutional denial and injustice as inspirational. This was the righting of an historical wrong and their campaign has given a powerful boost to other families fighting for truth, justice and accountability where their loved ones have died in the care of the state. We have worked closely with the family lawyers, all of whom are members of the Inquest Lawyers Group
; our advisory group member, Raju Bhatt, was a member of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, along with a founding member of INQUEST Professor Phil Scraton whose in-depth research and commitment was pivotal to the truth emerging.
Sadly the experiences of the Hillsborough families are not isolated and we see too regularly how the state fails bereaved people. Public bodies routinely try to avoid meaningful investigations, to evade responsibility, to blame the deceased and deny families the necessary resources, financial, legal and emotional. That the Hillsborough conclusions are impacting on the current debate on how police related deaths are investigated is welcome and is a debate INQUEST is feeding into. Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham has launched
a cross-party campaign to reform inquests, the handling of police misconduct and the relationship between police forces and the media. One of the proposals includes the legal right for bereaved families to receive equal funding for legal representation at inquests – non means tested public funding was vital for the families to play an effective role at the Hillsborough inquests - an issue that INQUEST has been campaigning on for many years.
Another important policy development was the announcement by the Care Quality Commission of their review into how NHS Trusts investigate and learn from deaths. This announcement followed the publication of the Mazars review
which revealed that Southern Health NHS failed to investigate hundreds of unexpected deaths of mental health and learning disability patients. The CQC recently issued a warning
to the Southern NHS Foundation Trust following an inspection in January 2016. No other health trust has faced such scrutiny and their failure to act on recommendations from inquests, investigations and inspections is unacceptable and highlights an accountability gap at a corporate level. INQUEST has been working very closely with the family of Connor Sparrowhawk who have been behind the campaign to push for real change in the way people with learning disabilities are treated. We have also run a persistent campaign on the need for deaths of mental health patients to be independently investigated.
Increasing number of self inflicted deaths, self harm and homicides in prisons continued to have an impact on our caseload. MOJ statistics published in April showed that self inflicted deaths up to March 2016 were almost double the number in 2013 and homicides were at an all time high. See INQUEST’s response
to these statistics and Deborah Coles and INQUEST Trustee Joe Sim’s open letter to the Guardian: Inescapable realities that face UK prisons
Also in this period, restraint of children in custody became a focus again following a report by Ministry of Justice revealing that the G4S run Rainsbrook secure training centre, where 15 year old Gareth Myatt died twelve years ago, had the highest number of restraints being used. See our Deborah Coles' comments
in relation to these disturbing findings.