Speech on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Pro-bono Medical Panel, delivered at the British Medical Association Annual Representative Meeting, June 2015.

*CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY*

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Pro-Bono Medical Panel was set up in 2002 to advise the FCO in relation to the health of serious medical conditions in, at that time, 3000 British citizens who were in foreign jails. This panel was launched as part of on-going reforms to help protect the human rights of prisoners overseas. It was developed in conjunction with the British Medical Association and the Medical Royal Colleges.

The issue of the health of British Citizens overseas is not restricted to prisoners in jails. There are many children living, or visiting, abroad on a temporary or permanent basis who are also British Citizens. Some of these children are involved in child protection issues or there is concern for the safety or welfare of the child. I’m already a member of the Medical Pro-bono panel at the Foreign Office and I believe that an enhancement of this panel, to cover the most serious child protection issues, would be beneficial to children, and families.

This is about using the skills of professionals who are prepared to carry out pro-bono work – that is work for free on a voluntary basis. It is about building on the original panel that the BMA was involved in creating over a decade ago, and enhancing it to reflect the current challenges that face professionals working with children and families in today’s world.

Due to the nature of child protection work any extension would need to be multi-professional but there is no apparent immediately obvious reason why such an extension would not be successful and provide Consular Officers, working overseas, with additional support where serious cases are involved.

We know that there are doctors out there who are prepared to carry out voluntary work, you can see that from the posters outside, we know that there are plenty of professionals who work on a pro-bono basis for the benefit of society and we know that we can all do more to better help families, children and young people in the future.

Our new President last night asked us to have courage, compassion and commitment. The action arising from this motion, if you carry it, is one way of demonstrating those key qualities. Sir Al posed the question – who is looking out for vulnerable children?

Well, if not us, then who? If not now, then when?

I hope you will support this motion.

Chair, I move.

<ends>

BMA

MOTION

That this meeting supports an enhancement of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Pro-bono Medical Panel (“Panel”) to cover child protection issues, and:-

i) notes that the BMA were involved in the creation of the original Medical Pro-bono Panel (carried unanimously)

ii) mandates the BMA to work with appropriate stakeholders to try to secure this enhancement to the Panel (carried unanimously)

Declaration of interest: as a Churchill Fellow I wrote a report into child abuse and neglect in the UK and overseas, called Living on a Railway Line, from which this motion arises.

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Speech on the adverse effects of child abuse, including child sexual exploitation, and mandatory reporting of child abuse, delivered at the British Medical Association Annual Representative Meeting, June 2015.

*CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY*

Right now, today, in regions all across the UK and worldwide, children are being abused, neglected and exploited by the very families and communities that ought to be looking after them, caring for them and helping them to grow up in the way that they, the children and young people, would wish to.

Each year in the UK, of those children who are physically abused, over a quarter of a million are injured and around 75000 require medical attention.

20% of 11-17 year olds have been severely maltreated by a parent or guardian and 1 in 20 children have experienced contact sexual abuse.

In the six years leading up to the end of 2014, there were thirteen thousand reported cases of nine major sexual offences against under 16 year olds, no, not in the UK, but in Greater Manchester alone.

There is no doubt that communities need to do more to support and protect children.

Alongside that we as professionals need to do more. The abuse that has been suffered by children is appalling in its own right but, tragically, children have been ignored and in some cases even blamed for the abuse that has happened to them.

The world is a dangerous place to live in, not because of those people who do terrible things, but because of those people who do not do anything about them.

Uncomfortable words, Representative Body, but the reality for some children who have suffered from horrendous things that have no place in our modern society.

We must ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

There are calls in this motion for better community education about adverse childhood experiences. Better professional education and training, including about slavery and trafficking and a Health Needs Assessment in relation to child maltreatment in the UK.

There is in principle support for mandatory reporting child abuse legislation, with proper scientific evaluation, to better protect those children who have reported abuse, or who are suspected of having been abused, but who have been ignored or dismissed.

As doctors, as a nation, we must do better. We have to strengthen our resolve to give every child and young person the security, opportunity and bright future that they deserve. We all have a responsibility to create safe places for children to live the lives that they would wish to.

Raising a healthy next generation is both a moral obligation and a national imperative.

These are not just words but a realistic possibility if all of the communities in our global society pull together.

The part you can play is to carry all parts of this motion today.

Because, Representative Body, what is the use of us being doctors, what is the use of this meeting, what is the point of us living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this troubled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone.

Chairman, I move.

BMA

MOTION

That this meeting is very concerned about the adverse effects of child abuse, including child sexual exploitation, and:-

i) condemns the abuse or maltreatment of children in all circumstances (carried unanimously)

ii) highlights the need for communities to do more to support and protect children (carried unanimously)

iii) calls for standardised child protection training programmes for all professionals dealing with children and families (carried by an overwhelming majority)

iv) calls for a Health Needs Assessment to be undertaken in relation to child maltreatment in the UK (carried by an overwhelming majority)

v) in principle, supports the introduction of “Mandatory Reporting” child abuse legislation and insists that any introduction is scientifically evaluated (carried)

vi) recommends that organisations working in the community on child abuse prevention programmes should incorporate material related to Adverse Childhood Experiences (“ACEs”) (carried unanimously)

vii) insists that, following the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, statutory guidance, education and training for appropriate professionals, must be provided (carried unanimously).

Declaration of interest: as a Churchill Fellow I wrote a report into child abuse and neglect in the UK and overseas, called Living on a Railway Line, from which this motion arises.

New British Medical Association Policies on Safeguarding Vulnerable Children

The British Medical Association (BMA) Annual Representative Meeting has formed new policies on protecting vulnerable children at its meeting in Liverpool this week.

I made speeches proposing the following motions which stemmed from my Churchill Fellowship report, Living on a Railway Line, and am delighted that all parts of the motions were carried and have now become BMA policy.

 

<motion starts>

Motion 439

That this meeting supports an enhancement of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Pro-bono Medical Panel (“Panel”) to cover child protection issues, and:-

i) notes that the BMA were involved in the creation of the original Medical Pro-bono Panel (carried unanimously)

ii) mandates the BMA to work with appropriate stakeholders to try to secure this enhancement to the Panel (carried unanimously)

<motion ends>

 

<motion starts>

Motion 639 (amended 348)

That this meeting is very concerned about the adverse effects of child abuse, including child sexual exploitation, and:-

i) condemns the abuse or maltreatment of children in all circumstances (carried unanimously)

ii) highlights the need for communities to do more to support and protect children (carried unanimously)

iii) calls for standardised child protection training programmes for all professionals dealing with children and families (carried with an overwhelming majority)

iv) calls for a Health Needs Assessment to be undertaken in relation to child maltreatment in the UK; (carried with an overwhelming majority)

v) in principle, supports the introduction of “Mandatory Reporting” child abuse legislation and insists that any introduction is scientifically evaluated (carried)

vi) recommends that organisations working in the community on child abuse prevention programmes should incorporate material related to Adverse Childhood Experiences (“ACEs”) (carried unanimously)

vii) insists that, following the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, statutory guidance, education and training for appropriate professionals, must be provided (carried unanimously).

<motion ends>

 

What happens next is that BMA Council will meet to discuss how best to implement these new policies over the coming year.

I’m delighted at the result of the above votes and look forward to working with the BMA over the next year implementing the policy that has now been created. I’ll be posting separately the proposal speeches that I gave on each of these motions which can be accessed here:

http://www.bma.public-i.tv/core/portal/arm-wed

(Scroll down to Motions 348 and 439 in the Timeline box and click on them. Click on play in the box to the left).

No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the world. The words and ideas expressed at the BMA annual meeting which result in motions being carried, result in new policy being formed by the BMA which results in implementation efforts with the ultimate aim, using the two cases above as examples, of securing changes to better protect children and young people in the future.

This week’s policy-setting conference was just a start. It is the work on these policies, the implementation of them and the outcomes of that implementation that really matter, but in the end I’m hopeful of success.

Watch this space…

BMA