Events and conferences, Family, Mental Health Law, United Kingdom

Legal Wales Conference 2014: students address practitioners on children and young people’s rights to mental health services in Wales

LPC students Katie Morgan and Charlotte Pritchard talk about their experience presenting at this year’s Legal Wales Conference 2014 held at Bangor University.

“We were extremely pleased to be selected by Cardiff Law School to work with the Wales Observatory on Human Rights of Children and Young People to present a break-out session at the Legal Wales Annual Conference on barriers to access to justice for children and young people in Wales.

The Observatory is based in Swansea and works for the human rights of children and young people through public policy, practice, advocacy and law reform. Cardiff, Bangor and Swansea Universities were invited by the Observatory and the Law Society in Wales to sponsor two students each to research and present on the topic of availability, in practice, of redress for children and young people in Wales who experience problems that can be articulated as a failure by a public body to act compatibly with their Convention rights under the Human Rights Act 1998 and/or as a failure by a duty bearer to have due regard to the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The aim of the presentation was to engage members of the legal profession to help the Observatory develop a network linking children and young people’s direct action projects to sources of legal advice and representation.

We focused our research on access to mental health services for children and young people in Wales. This issue had caught our attention following widespread media coverage of failing mental health services in Wales. It became clear from our research that children and young people involved with CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) in Wales were encountering a number of problems such as long waiting lists, overly restrictive diagnostic criteria and lack of inpatient services and that these had potential human rights implications. Our research also highlighted that the opportunities for children and young people to challenge these potential breaches of their human rights is extremely limited. During the summer, we worked together on our presentation, in the context of the Observatory overview.

We set off on the long drive to Bangor early on 9th October, the day before the Conference. On arrival we met the other students and had an opportunity to run through our presentations. The students from Bangor were presenting on the topic of ‘Access to Play’ and the student from Swansea had chosen the topic of ‘Access to Housing for Gypsy and Traveller Children’. It was interesting to see the different research approaches taken, although clear that all issues being presented were underpinned by the central theme of potential human rights violations of children in Wales.

The next day we made our way to the historic main building at Bangor University. After an introductory presentation on ‘Law Reform and Wales’, it was time for our breakout session. Jane Williams, one of the directors of the Observatory, provided an excellent introduction, outlining the legal background regarding children’s rights in Wales. Following the presentation, we posed a number of questions to our audience to help establish possible solutions to the access to justice problems identified in our individual presentations. A number of useful and informative discussions were had and the completed feedback forms have provided the Observatory with a number of contacts to follow up.

Following our break out session, we were free to enjoy the rest of the conference. We attended a number of interesting talks. Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court spoke on ‘The UK Constitutional Settlement and the Role of the Supreme Court’ and Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division spoke on ‘21st Century Family Law’, speculating on the future of family law in the century ahead.

That evening, we were kindly invited to the Conference dinner hosted by Bangor University where we were introduced to the Chairman of the Law Commission, Sir David Lloyd Jones, whose wife (a family law barrister) had attended our presentation during the breakout session and who provided us with some excellent feedback.

We thoroughly enjoyed our involvement in this project. Not only did it provide us with an opportunity to develop our research and presentation skills and to network with the other institutions and members of the legal profession, but we also learnt a great deal about important issues affecting children and young people in Wales and the work that has to be done to prevent future violations of their human rights.”

For more information, please contact Dr Julie Doughty