Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Why we are demanding justice for LB (Connor Sparrowhawk) and all our young people

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” 

Article 1 UNDHR

Many people reading this will already be aware of the appallingly unnecessary death of Connor Sparrowhawk (movingly known to his family as LB – ‘laughing boy’). Connor’s life was tragically cut short by profound failings in his treatment and care whilst at a short-term assessment unit run by Southern Health. Connor, who had autism, learning disabilities and epilepsy, drowned in the bath at the treatment centre. The independent report into his death, which can be found here, concluded his death was preventable. The unit had already been the subject of a damning inspection report by the CQC after his death which can be read here.
We have followed the story of Connor, his life and his death, through the impassioned and eloquent writings of his mother, Sara Ryan on her blog: My Daft Life. Connor was clearly unique and much loved.
We wanted to add our words of support to Connor’s family at this dreadful time. We wanted to say how much we support them and how much we admire the way they have pursued justice for him. They honour Connor with their actions and dignity.
But our sympathy cannot change anything and change is what we need because we have had enough of our young people being treated as second class citizens because of their disabilities. We are tired of having them considered a burden and/or ‘too expensive’. We are outraged by the profound indifference and hostility they may encounter from those who are paid to help them

We demand change now. We demand justice: for Connor and all disabled children and young people.
Human rights and justice now
We believe that ensuring respect for disabled people's inherent rights to dignity and equality are essential first steps in any process of change. Nelson Mandela said that “to deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity”. This is self-evidently true, yet, time and time again, we witness the denial of basic rights in relation our own children. In being denied their human rights, they are, as Mandela said, being dehumanized.
Why does this happen when the legal and moral imperatives for change are on their side? The law protects them and yet it does not operate to safeguard their interests in practice. Why?
We need to start demanding answers to these questions and we need to start using the legal language of human rights to exact change at every level: social, political and economic. We must put an end to indifference and the casual violation of children’s rights and the rights of disabled people. We put this bluntly because injustice deserves no disguise, fine words or positive spin.
We should not forget that, although it is easy to isolate us or sideline us from the main debates on politics, health and education, the law remains on our side. The international human rights framework can obviously be applied in the education and health context and we should use it. In addition, the Equality Act 2010 entitles our young people to equal treatment which is more than a prohibition on discrimination: it is a right to have difference respected as a matter of law.

By demanding respect for rights, we emphasise the inviolable nature of our children’s fundamental dignity in all matters that affect them, no matter how challenging this is for others. We demand that decision-making and actions are conducted and carried out in ways which promote and safeguard their rights from violation. We shift focus from “servicing” the “needs” of our children and young people to building their capacity to understand, claim and fulfil their rights. We also specifically reinforce the legal obligations on state authorities to understand, respect, promote and guarantee these rights.

So we say to all those who possess a louder voice than us, including the large charities working in this field, that it is never the wrong time to do the right thing.

Stand with us.

Demand justice for LB and all our young people.

Speak out for equality and challenge inequality.

Shout loudly that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

Work tirelessly to make this mean something in practice.

No comments:

Post a Comment