This set of on-line training materials has been compiled as part of the project entitled Access to Justice for Children with Mental Disabilities. Access to justice is a human right which entails effective access to the justice system including by non-discriminatory participation in fair proceedings and entitlement to appropriate remedies. It is a right which is all too often denied to children and to disabled adults and, as our research has demonstrated, to people at the intersection of these groups – ie children who have mental health conditions (often termed ‘psychosocial disabilities’) or learning difficulties (often termed ‘intellectual disabilities’). The term ‘mental disabilities’ has been used in this project to refer to people with psychosocial disabilities, intellectual disabilities and (for the removal of any doubt) people with autism.
Without effective access to justice, these children will be deprived of opportunities to bring complaints about ill-treatment and to participate in processes which determine how and where they will live and learn. Further, inadequate access to justice means that many such children will experience judicial proceedings themselves as a source of fear, exclusion and trauma.
The importance of training to the realisation of access to justice rights for children and disabled people has been repeatedly stressed in relevant human rights instruments. However, rights-based training relating to children with mental disabilities is not routinely included in the training available to key professionals working in the justice system. We hope that this set of online educational and training materials will fulfil its aims and draw together ideas and resources that will go some way to filling this gap.
The current materials are not a substitute for face-to-face training and do not (in their own right) lead to any formal accreditation or qualification. However, they are designed to assist educators (including university academics) and providers of training to people in a wide range of professions relevant to the justice system, to bring these issues within the scope of existing or new courses. They have been written in language which will be accessible to people with different professional backgrounds and to people who have a more personal interest in these issues (eg because they are the parent of a child with a mental disability). We therefore hope that they will be used to support self-learning and awareness-raising as well as to facilitate the development of relevant professional and academic training.
The focus of these training materials is the participation of children with mental disabilities in judicial proceedings at the domestic level. They do not deal with post-trial/proceedings issues. Neither do they address in any detail the opportunities which exist to seek redress and engage in advocacy at EU, Council of Europe and UN levels – although links to relevant guidance are here.
Roadmap to these Training Materials
Section 1 (this Section) introduces the training materials and explains their background, the project through which they were created, their purpose and scope.
Section 2 provides an explanation of nine concepts which underpin a human-rights-based approach to access to justice for children with mental disabilities. It is vital for professionals working with children with mental disabilities to have a basic knowledge of these concepts in order to ensure children have effective access to justice in their countries.
Section 3 explores a number of skills which key professionals will need to use if access to justice for children with mental disabilities is to be achieved. These are illustrated by examples drawn from existing practice where possible. Examples of good practice are primarily drawn from the 10 countries involved in this project, but also from other countries with which the researchers are familiar. These skills are considered to be important for all professionals whose work brings them into contact with children with mental disabilities in the justice system, regardless of their disciplinary background. However, different skills may need particular emphasis to suit the particular group of professionals for whose training these materials are being used to support. For example, social workers may already have excellent communication skills in working with children with mental disabilities, but lawyers may need further training to communicate effectively with these children as clients.
Section 4 provides examples of various criteria and considerations which are important in delivering training relevant to access to justice for children with mental disabilities.
In Section 5, a sample syllabus on the subject of access to justice for children with mental disabilities is set out. Like the rest of these materials, this syllabus has been drafted with a view to it being used to support the training of people in a wide range of disciplines (many of whom will not have legal expertise). As with all these materials, the syllabus is not intended to be a stand-alone training manual, and will require adaptation depending on the target group of professionals, and the relevant country context.
Section 6 consists of an annotated bibliography. This sets out references to a range of sources and resources from all over the world that might be helpful in supporting training initiatives in this area.
The aims of these training materials are to facilitate and support
- the transdisciplinary training of key professionals working in the justice system who may come into contact with children with mental disabilities;
- the education of students on university and other academic courses in subjects such as law, human rights, disability studies and children’s studies which have relevance to the situation of children with mental disabilities in judicial proceedings;
- to provide a set of resources which will help to enhance the understanding and human-rights-awareness of other people with an active interest in the subject (eg parents of children with mental disabilities).
The 10-country project, Access to Justice for Children with Mental Disabilities, ran from May 2013 until April 2015. It was funded by the European Commission, DG Justice and managed by the Mental Disability Advocacy Center Hungary, which worked in collaboration with research partners from nine other countries.
Project activities have fallen into four main strands of work:
- Workstream 1, – data collection;
- Workstream 2, – the human rights standards;
- Workstream 3, – training materials; and
- Workstream 4, – advocacy and awareness-raising.
These online educational and training materials are the result of the training-related project work carried out under Workstream 3. They also draw upon work carried out in other parts of the project (particularly Workstream 2).
Training-Related Project Work
This part of the project was co-ordinated by researchers at the Centre for Disability Studies, University of Leeds and the Centre for Disability Law and Policy, National University of Ireland, Galway.
Research partners in the 10 project countries were requested to provide information about training available to key professionals working in the justice system on supporting and interacting with children in judicial proceedings, people with mental disabilities in judicial proceedings and children with mental disabilities in judicial proceedings. The resulting national reports identified the extent to which relevant training was currently compulsory and optional. They also identified examples of good practice in the content and delivery of relevant training. Specific examples provided in the national reports have been used to enrich these training materials. They have, however, been supplemented by examples drawn from elsewhere.
The content of these training materials was prepared by researchers from the Centre for Disability Studies, University of Leeds and the Centre for Disability Law and Policy, National University of Ireland, Galway Technical expertise was provided by Digitronix. Comments and suggestions by members of the project’s expert panel were, as far as possible, incorporated into the final product.
In different countries, different types of profession work in the justice system in roles that affect children with mental disabilities. However, such professions generally include the following:
- lawyers representing the parties to the proceedings;
- social workers;
- victim support officers;
- forensic scientists;
- custody court professionals;
Country Co-ordinator and Researcher: Valentina Hristakeva, Director
Researchers: Antoaneta Mateeva, Marieta Dimitrova, Legal consultant and Velina Todorova
Country Co-ordinator and Researcher: Anna Hofschneiderová, lawyer
Project Manager: Katherine Morley
Project Assistant and Researcher: Anna Zeller
Researcher: Judit Zeller, Senior Lecturer at University of Pécs and Legal Officer at the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights OPCAT NPM
Country Co-ordinator and Researcher: Eilionóir Flynn, Deputy Director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy and Senior Lecturer of the School of Law
Researcher: Jennifer Kline, Research Assistant
Country Co-ordinator and Researcher: Ieva Leimane-Veldmeijere, Director
Researchers: Annija Mazapša, Lawyer Researcher and Santa Skirmante, Lawyer-Researcher
Country Co-Ordinator and Researcher: Ugnė Grigaitė, Project Manager
Country Co-ordinator: Georgiana Pascu, Program Manager “Advocate for Dignity”
Researchers: Daniela Ududec, Expert; Silvia Tabusca, Expert; Valerian Stan, Expert and Member of the Board of Directors of CRJ
Country Co-ordinator and Researcher: Mojca Urek, Assistant Professor
Researcher: Andrea Rafaelič, Assistant Lecturer
Country Co-ordinator and Researcher: Ignacio Campoy Cervera, Professor of Law
Researchers: Patricia Cuenca Gómez, Assistant Lecturer; Silvina Ribotta, Junior Lecturer in Philosophy of Law, Assistant Director of the Master of Fundamental Rights Programme
Country Co-ordinator and Researcher: Anna Lawson, Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Disability Studies
Researchers: Rebecca Parry, Lecturer in Law; Andrea Hollomotz, Lecturer in Social Research Methods, Disability and Deviance; Neil Crowther, independent research consultant.