The Weekly Round-Up: Afghanistan, disability equality, and unregulated accommodation

23 August 2021 by

In the news:

On 15 August the Taliban took control of Kabul, following the collapse of the Afghan government and its President Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country.  In a news conference, a Taliban spokesman said women would be allowed to work and have rights “within the framework of Islam”.  The Taliban also said it wanted women to join its government, but precise laws are as yet undefined and there have been reports of women in some areas being removed from their workplaces and told their jobs will go to men.  Since the takeover, however, female presenters have returned to some television channels and “most, though not all, girls’ schools have remained open or are reopening”.

The fall of Kabul came after weeks of rapidly growing Taliban control across the nation, which followed a US-Taliban peace deal in April committing to US and NATO allies, including the UK, fully withdrawing from Afghanistan by 11 September.  On 13 August the UK government announced plans to evacuate British Nationals and former British staff eligible for relocation under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP).  ARAP came into effect on 1 April 2021 as a programme to relocate “current and former local staff in Afghanistan, including interpreters and their immediate families.”  Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was “proud to say that the UK is fulfilling its promise to those Afghan interpreters and other locally employed staff”, and that it was “our moral obligation to recognise the risks they have faced…”  Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed the government would do its best to evacuate all people eligible but admitted with clear regret that “some people won’t get back”.

For those that that do make it out, their futures are far from certain as the Home Office is reportedly struggling to provide suitable accommodation for refugees.  On 18 August a 5-year-old Afghan boy fell from a hotel window, less than a fortnight after arriving in the UK with his family under the ARAP programme. There had reportedly been some concerns about the safety of the hotel windows and the housing group Mears had left the hotel some months ago due to safety concerns.

In other news:

  • A global campaign called WeThe15, formed by a coalition of organisations including the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and International Disability Alliance, has been established to represent the 15% of the world’s population that is disabled.  The campaign, launched ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic games, aims to improve disability visibility, accessibility and inclusion. On Thursday 125 global landmarks, including 21 in the UK, were lit up in purple, the colour representing disability.
  • The High Court approved an application for judicial review of secondary legislation made by the Education Secretary, which would ban unregulated accommodation for children in care under the age of 16.  The application was brought by children’s rights charity Article 39, which argues that the new law, set to come into force on 9 September, discriminates against 16 and 17-year-olds.  Around 6,000 children in care aged 16 and 17 currently live in unregulated accommodation such as hostels, shared houses and bedsits and do not receive day-to-day care.  Article 39 says that many of these types of accommodation are run for profit and that owners can bypass the quality standards required of regulated children’s homes.
  • Information acquired by the BBC under a Freedom of Information request revealed that up to 4,500 people in mental health crises were unlawfully held in police custody in England and Wales in a year.  The detentions reportedly occurred due to a lack of hospital beds and other appropriate places of safety for those arrested and in need of mental health support.  A shortage of mental health professionals to make assessments also contributed to the delay in moving individuals from police custody to safe places.

In the courts:

  • W [2021] EWHC 2345 (Fam) –Mrs Justice Knowles, the judge hearing this case, described it as “a depressingly familiar scenario to the judges of the Family Division” [27].  It concerns a 15-year-old girl, W, detained in an adult hospital ward pursuant to an order granted by the same judge permitting the hospital trust to deprive W of her liberty, as she was actively suicidal and put others at risk due to her behaviour.  There being no suitable community placement available for her and her mother being unable and unwilling to care for her at home, following multiple abscondments and serious self-harming incidents, W was placed in a side room of an adult ward.  This hearing concerned arrangements for W’s accommodation, given that the hospital and mental health professionals considered secure accommodation would be detrimental to W, returning to her mother’s home or placement in a foster home would be unsafe, and remaining in the hospital was harmful to her.  The local authority proposed placement in rented accommodation with her mother and care agency staff, with the use of physical restraint where necessary; the administration of prescribed medication; supervision within the placement; and restricted access to electronic devices.  CAMHS would also provide a high level of support.  It is not certain, but highly likely, that the accommodation would require and fall short of Ofsted regulation.  Additionally, changes to the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/959) due to come into force on 9 September would render illegal any unregulated accommodation for under 16-year-olds.  The judge conceded that “the local authority has no other option for W” [30] but to place her in the proposed accommodation, which is only available until 6 September 2021.  She added that the placement would “not only be potentially illegal but will be unlawful with effect from 9 September 2021” [31] and directed this case to be relisted for review in mid-September.

On the UKHRB:

  • Ticiana Alencar comments on the Supreme Court dismissal of a challenge to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme
  • Rosalind English examines the ECJ’s view that Poland’s disciplinary chamber for judges is a threat to the rule of law
  • Robert Kellar QC considers the law around negligence, vicarious liability and non-delegable duties through the lens of a dentistry case.

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