Access to Justice for Children with Mental Disabilities

Project duration

May 2013 – April 2015

Donor

European Union

Project goal

To ensure access to justice for children with mental or intellectual disabilities in administative, civil and criminal law in 10 European Union countries. To respond to the needs of these children based on the carried out researches and ensure their access to information, legal representation and full participation in the pre-trial and trial  proceedings, protection during the proceedings, confidentiality, as well as proper training of the professionals.

Children with mental disabilities are not secondclass citizens. They have a right to be supported to be full members of our societies.

The reality for many children, however, is that they are denied their fundamental rights. 93 million children with disabilities around the globe are “disabled” because of social barriers and attitudes. In many countries children with mental disabilities are excluded on the basis of their impairments, denied even the basic right to attain justice for abuse that they have suffered. Many children with mental disabilities are not provided with adequate support to feel safe, healthy and happy. They are denied their right to an education in a classroom like any other children. Stopped from playing, sharing and interacting with other children, many children with mental disabilities receive little or no support to take part in their communities. Numerous children with mental disabilities are forced to live in institutions where they are isolated, neglected and exposed to all forms of violence.

We want to end this denial of the human rights of children with mental disabilities. We believe that all children with mental disabilities must be supported to exercise self-determination and to participate in the decisions that affect them. Denying their right to attain justice should end. This is a right for all children, guaranteed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

For the first time, information is being collected on the right for children to access justice in 10 countries of the European Union: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and United Kingdom. We are collecting information on the extent to which mental disabilities are really guaranteed access to justice in administrative, civil and criminal law. We are identifying good practice and challenges, including where decisions are made on where children with mental disabilities should be educated and live. We are also looking at the situation of children with mental disabilities who are victims, witnesses and alleged offenders of crimes.

Conducted research will be the basis for development of the training programmes for professionals and carrying out advocacy activities. Advocacy will aim to inform decision makers and society about the existing gaps in the system and the need to build fairer environment and to ensure better quality of life for children and young people with mental or intellectual disabilities. This will help them to be fully-fledged members of our society who are heard, respected and valued.

Download leaflet (A2J_leaflet_final)

Expected results

The main focus of the project will be on carrying out the research and developing methodology for further researches on access to justice for children with mental or intellectual disabilities on European level. Additionally training programmes for specialists will be created and advocacy activities will be carried out, in order to inform decision makers and society about the existing gaps in the system and the need to build fairer environment and to ensure better quality of life for children and young people with mental or intellectual disabilities in Lithuania and in other European Union countries.

Project leading partner 

Mental Disability Advocacy Centre (MDAC)