Truth commissions are set up to carry out research, conduct investigations and document human rights breaches and patterns found in these breaches.
Children and their families in England and Wales have rights which are set out in the Human Rights Act 1998, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which came into force in the UK on 15 January 1992.
The Children and Families Truth Commission (CFTC) will investigate whether public bodies tasked with child protection in England and Wales (Britain) have complied with and upheld these laws.
The CFTC will gather evidence from families and children who have experienced children’s social care in England and Wales. The commission will work with families who wish to take part through statement-taking, audio interviews and document collections.
The commission will also work with organisations including child welfare charities and NGOs, academic institutions and groups led by children, parents and family members to understand how the system impacts children’s and families’ human rights.
The commission’s objectives
The commissions objectives set out why it has been launched, who it hopes to engage as it carries out its work and what it will offer once it has completed its investigations:
- To assess, clarify and document human rights breaches in the children’s social care sector;
- To provide a space to address accountability within the child protection sector;
- To offer children and families a forum to share their experiences to enable a clear understanding of the impact of human rights breaches on victims harmed by the child protection system and support healing;
- To offer the child protection system an opportunity to address recorded human rights breaches and make reparations;
- To implement specific mechanisms and procedures to address the experiences of children, families, women and vulnerable groups including vulnerable men, paying particular attention to gender based and child rights breaches;
- To recommend measures for the rehabilitation of children and families who are victims of human rights breaches by the UK government and;
- To produce a report which sets out the commission’s activities and its findings, as well as recommendations.
The commission’s functions
The commission will carry out several functions in order to meet its objectives. These include:
- To protect the integrity and wellbeing of children and their families;
- To investigate human rights breaches against children and their families in the child protection system in England and Wales;
- To investigate who has been affected by those violations, and which groups and individuals have been disproportionately impacted by human rights breaches in the system;
- To investigate the causes and circumstances under which the breaches and abuses occurred and identify the individuals, public institutions, bodies, organisations, public office holders or persons who acted on behalf of any public body responsible for or involved in the breaches and abuses;
- To inform the public and give sufficient publicity to the commission’s work so as to encourage the public to contribute positively to the Commission;
- To hold events, hearings, interviews and meetings to promote healing and understanding at the local and national levels;
- To conduct investigations and research;
- To receive and compile information provided through direct witness and victim statements, as well as from archives and other documentary sources and;
- To prepare and submit a report of its findings and recommendations to national authorities and the public.
The commission would like to thank:
Emeritus Professor Saul Becker, University of Sussex;
Professor Gillian Ruch, Professor of Social Work at the Department of Social Work and Social Care, School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sussex and;
Dr Jeri L. Damman, Lecturer, Social Work and Social Care at the University of Sussex,
For offering their invaluable guidance in helping shape and conduct this commission.
The commission is also grateful to: UNICEF Innocenti Research Center for its guide on children and truth commissions; the International Center for Transitional Justice’s Truth Commission Mandate Tool; South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC); the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Liberia, and; the National Reconciliation Commission in Ghana, all of which have informed the CFTC’s structure and framework.