Holding it all together – human rights and disadvantage

Birthrights and Birth Companions have published a joint report – Holding it all together: Understanding how far the human rights of women facing disadvantage are respected during pregnancy, birth and postnatal care.

The report marks a key milestone in a two-year joint research project funded by Trust for London, to help establish greater understanding of the needs and experiences of women facing severe and multiple disadvantage, and the professionals caring for them.

The collaboration, which combines the rights expertise of Birthrights with Birth Companions’ specialism in multiple disadvantage, sheds vital light on the ways in which maternity and other services such as housing respond to women at this crucial stage in their lives.

Both organisations are now working with a range of key stakeholders to co-produce recommendations in response to the report. We look forward to sharing those in the coming months.

Birthrights welcomes new Advice and Legal Officer…

Birthrights is delighted to welcome Alice Waddington to the Birthrights fold as our Advice and Legal Officer. Alice replaces Reilly Willis who left Birthrights in April after being offered a full time Lectureship in Law close to home. Alice will be looking after our advice service; responding to enquiries, ensuring all materials are up to date, and growing and developing the service.

Alice has worked in the Charity sector consistently since graduating from Queen Mary, University of London in 2003.  In 2009, she began the Graduate Diploma in Law at BPP Law School whilst working full time and sat her final exams for the Legal Practice Course a month before giving birth to her second child. She has been a dedicated Project Manager for many years, running projects to improve outcomes for some of the UK’s poorest children and has always been committed to using her skills to support her local community, volunteering at the Free Legal Advice Centre at Toynbee Hall whilst also being a vocal member of the Governing body at a nearby school. Having grown up in two continents, Alice is fluent in four languages and hopes to reach women who have yet to encounter our work. She is extremely excited to be joining Birthrights! 

Birthrights and partners submit evidence to the UN

Last week Birthrights joined with the White Ribbon Alliance, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and Make Birth Better, to submit evidence to the UN Special Rapporteur, about how pregnant women are treated in the UK.

The UN Special Rapporteur, Ms. Dubravka Šimonović has identified the issue of mistreatment and violence against women during reproductive health care and childbirth as the subject of her next thematic report to be presented at the UN the General Assembly in September 2019.

Whilst there is much to celebrate about maternity care in the UK, disrespectful care is still far too common, with women whose life circumstances are more complex, less likely to receive safe and dignified care.

The joint submission to the UN can be found here.

Recruiting for Legal Officer – part-time / flexible (2.5 days per week)

£30,000 pro rata – £15,000 actual per annum

Deadline: 5pm on Monday 29 April

Birthrights is looking for a new Legal Officer to help us achieve our mission. If you are a legal expert with strong knowledge of human rights law and maternity care in the UK, practical experience of litigation and a passion for protecting women’s rights, we hope you will apply to join our team.

Birthrights exists because women matter during childbirth. We are the UK’s only organisation dedicated to improve women’s experience of pregnancy and childbirth by promoting respect for human rights. We provide advice and legal information to women, train healthcare professionals to deliver rights-respecting care and campaign to change maternity policy and systems.

Our new Legal Officer will manage and develop our email advice service and online resources, play a core role in our strategic legal and policy work, support the development and delivery of our training and contribute to organisational priorities and development.

Essential criteria include a legal degree or legal professional qualifications, knowledge of human rights law and practical experience of the UK legal system and strategic litigation, knowledge of maternity care policies and practice, excellent communications skills and experience of working in a small team. The ideal candidate will also have experience of providing advice to beneficiaries or the public, knowledge of other relevant UK law, experience of legal policy work and understanding of the issues and context faced by small charities.

Download the job description to see the full list of essential and desirable criteria.

Birthrights values diversity, promotes equality and challenges discrimination in line with our human rights mission. We welcome applications from people of all backgrounds, regardless of their race, gender, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age. We encourage applications from women with lived experience of the issues we tackle, particularly those groups most at risk of human rights violations during pregnancy and childbirth – disabled women, women living with severe and complex disadvantage, and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women.

Neighbourhood Midwives

We were very saddened to hear last week about the imminent closure of Neighbourhood Midwives. Neighbourhood Midwives started out as a private, independent midwifery company, but were commissioned by Waltham Forest CCG to offer continuity of care, free of charge, to women as part of a two year pilot following  “Better Births”. Neighbourhood Midwives have been highly valued by the families they care for, and are respected across the maternity community. 


Birthrights contacted Annie Francis, CEO of Neighbourhood Midwives, as soon as we heard the news, to offer our support. Annie recognises that people have lots of questions about what happened last week, and the future implications of this, but has emphasised that her immediate priority and that of her team is ensuring a smooth transfer of care for the women Neighbourhood Midwives have been caring for before Neighbourhood Midwives closes its doors tomorrow.


With that in mind, on Monday our Programmes Director, Maria Booker, spoke to Barts and Homerton NHS Trusts, and also Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Group. We have been impressed by the commitment of all those involved, many of whom were just as surprised as everyone else to hear the news, to ensure women do get both the continuity of care and the birth they were promised. Women who are due to give birth before the end of February have been prioritised and it is our understanding that those transfers of care have already happened/are in the process of being completed and remaining women are now being transferred. 


We have responded to all the women who have contacted us about the closure of Neighbourhood Midwives to provide more detailed information about next steps, and to let them know that we are here for them if they need any further assistance or support. This is the information that has been provided by Whipps Cross and Neighbourhood Midwives and our choice of place of birth factsheet . We will continue to monitor the situation to ensure women are receiving the care they expect.


Our Chief Executive, Amy Gibbs, has also contacted Baroness Cumberlege, the Chair of the national maternity review, about the broader concerns raised by the closure of Neighbourhood Midwives.


If you have any concerns about the closure of Neighbourhood Midwives, or would like any assistance or support with your care please contact us on advice@birthrights.org.uk.”

Six months on and still no response from OUH on maternal request caesarean policy…

Our Chair, Elizabeth Prochaska, has today written to Dame Fiona Caldicott, Chair of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to urge her to hold her board to account over the lack of response to a letter sent in July, asking OUH to clarify important details surrounding its maternal request caesarean policy. It is somewhat surprising that an NHS Trust that is accountable to the public, should feel able to ignore a serious request for information, made on behalf of local women, and we look forward to receiving a substantive response by the 3rd January.

The full letter to Dame Caldicott can be found here.

Happy Human Rights Day 2018

As the UK’s only organisation protecting human rights in pregnancy & childbirth, Birthrights are very proud to be supporting #HumanRightsDay2018 & to join forces with 155 organisations asking the PM to safeguard our freedoms here in the UK #weareallhuman #humanrightsday2018 #humanrights

Full text of the letter, co-ordinated by the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR):

Dear Prime Minister

Today, on Human Rights Day, we ask you to join us in celebrating universal human rights in the UK and commit to standing firm on our hard-won freedoms and protections.

Created 70 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone in human history. Following the horrors of World War II, the world community came together to say never again and set down the protections every person has simply because we are all human.

Heralded as Magna Carta for all human kind, the UDHR has set a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, inspiring law and action across the world.

Through the European Convention on Human Rights and our own Human Rights Act we have brought those rights home, making them real and meaningful for people everyday across the UK.

2019 marks another milestone in our history. As the UK prepares to exit the European Union, and uncertainty surrounds us, we ask you to ensure that our commitment to universal human rights at home remains strong and certain.  


advice@birthrights.org.uk

Birthrights now has a dedicated email address for advice enquiries:

advice@ birthrights.org.uk

If you have any queries about human rights relating to maternity care – please get in touch with us. Our free email advice line is not only for women and their families but also for healthcare professionals.

If you have any other enquiries about training, speaking engagements or anything else then do continue to contact us on info@birthrights.org.uk

Would you like to be a Birthrights Associate trainer?

Do you have human rights expertise?

Are you a healthcare professional who puts human rights centred care into practice?

Birthrights is looking for experienced trainers to join its Associate Trainer team as either a Legal trainer or a Healthcare Professional trainer. We will give you the training you need, ongoing support and pay you for the training sessions you do. You will need to be available at least twice a year to deliver training sessions and be willing and able to contribute to the development of our training programme. The full role description is here and the application form is here.

The deadline for applications is the 9th November and the next Associate training day will be held in London on the 7th December. If you would like more information please contact us on info@birthrights.org.uk.

‘Child of Mine’ documentary, showing parents coming to terms with the stillbirth of their babies

Tonight True Visions’s ‘Child of Mine’ documentary, showing parents coming to terms with the stillbirth of their babies, will be shown on Channel 4 at 10pm on Thursday 18th October 2018.

We absolutely understand the potential benefits of a sensitively made documentary on stillbirth and the importance of raising awareness of what bereaved parents go through. However we do have some concerns about how this documentary was made and in particular how consent was obtained, which we shared with the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, that includes The Rosie Maternity Hospital, following an enquiry from a member of the public in the area, and you can view this letter here. The response from the documentary makers can be seen here and we understand filming ended shortly afterwards.

If you were affected by the filming at the Rosie or UCL and have any concerns about how this was conducted, please do get in touch on info@birthrights.org.uk.

If you have been affected by stillbirth or miscarriage there are a number of national and local organisations you can contact for support including:

SANDS, the Stillbirth and neonatal death charity

The Miscarriage Association

Antenatal Results and Choices