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

Birthrights appoints new Chief Executive

We are thrilled to announce the appointment of our new Chief Executive, Amy Gibbs, who will join Birthrights at the end of November 2018.

Amy is a health and human rights campaigner and senior leader with over 12 years experience in national charities, local government and Parliament. Throughout her career she has led teams and organisations to secure legal, policy and practice change for vulnerable adults and children denied their rights by services and society. Amy was a Director of child rights organisations Unicef UK and The Children’s Society, and earlier spent 5 years leading policy and campaigns on social rights and healthcare at mental health charity Mind.

Amy served for 8 years as an elected Councillor for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, including two years as Cabinet Member for Health & Adults Services and Chair of the Health & Wellbeing Board, which oversaw integrated services including maternity care transformation. She has held various non-Executive positions including Vice-Chair of East End Citizens Advice Bureau and Governor of East London Mental Health Foundation Trust. Amy has an MSc in European Public Policy and MA in English Literature and German. When not working for Birthrights, she is kept on her toes by her lively toddler!

Amy says “I’m delighted and honoured to join Birthrights as Chief Executive. Protecting women’s rights and dignity in childbirth is an issue very close to my heart and I look forward to working with the staff team, trustees, partners and funders to deliver this ambition for even more women.

Birthrights welcomes new Legal Officer

Birthrights is delighted to welcome Reilly Willis, our new Legal Officer to the staff team. Reilly, who starts with Birthrights this week, is an experienced international human rights lawyer specialising in women’s rights and gender equality. You can find out more about Reilly here.

Reilly will be responding to our advice line enquiries, ensuring our resources are up to date and accessible, and will be leading any legal interventions undertaken by Birthrights, and we are very excited to have her on board!

What does a good maternal request caesarean policy look like?

One of the primary objectives of our campaign on maternal request caesarean is to highlight examples of best practice and celebrate the Trusts taking a woman-centred approach. One of the guidelines that really stood out to us was that of Birmingham Women’s Hospital (BWH).

BWH’s guideline on maternal request caesarean explicitly recognises that the evidence base around this decision is of very low quality. It uses language that recognises the woman as the lead decision maker such as, “If a woman has decided on CS” and, “at every appointment re-confirm (not challenge) decision”.

It came as no surprise to learn that BWH co-produced the guideline with service users who had faced this decision and had direct experience of the process. We spoke to Sara Kenyon, Professor of Evidence Based Maternity Care at the University of Birmingham, and the lead researcher on the project to revise the maternal request caesarean, about her experience of leading this project.

How did the idea to co-produce the maternal request guideline working with service user representatives come about?

It came from the clinicians who wanted to improve the care they offered.

How did you go about co-designing a new guideline?

We used a recognised process called ‘experienced based co-design’, which was developed by the King’s Fund. It uses the experiences of women (in this case) and clinical staff to re-design services taking account of the views of all those involved.

We talked to both of these groups separately and then shared our findings to check with both groups we had heard their concerns correctly. A workshop was then held with both groups to discuss findings and agree key areas for service improvement. A final workshop agreed changes to the pathway.

What were the main concerns raised by women and healthcare professionals?

Interestingly, similar key issues for service improvement were identified by both women and clinical staff. These were women having to discuss the request a number of times, delay in the decision for caesarean, women feeling judged, and that information for women needed improving.

You describe the co-design process as challenging and rewarding – tell us more…?

It was rewarding to see how keen everyone was to get involved to improve care.

It was challenging to keep the momentum going and finding time to get everyone together- clinicians and new mothers have competing priorities.

Was there anything that surprised you as you went through the co-design process?

The willingness of all those involved to engage in the project and the fact that both groups identified the same key areas for service improvement.

You talk about tension between the midwifery model of care and the medical model of care over this particular decision; can you tell us a bit more about that?

In this context, an added challenge was the professional tensions between the midwifery model of care and the medical model. Midwives are trained in a ‘culture of normality’ in which normal birth is promoted and valued and a women choosing an elective caesarean birth can feel like a failure to midwives although many would also feel that their role is to support a woman in whatever decision she makes.

The current Maternity Transformation Programme, with its focus on increasing choice and personalisation, may act as a tool to promote change.

Do you think the results would differ if carried out by other Trusts in other areas?

I would have thought that the same concerns would be raised by women and healthcare professionals depending on the current pathway. Having the support of a research team that understands maternity care was really helpful but in principle this sort of process could be carried out by any Trust working with service users.   

Some Trust policies are a result of local commissioning pressures and it would be important that commissioners were involved in the co-design process too.

What advice would you have for other Trusts looking to review their maternal request caesarean policy?

It does take time and commitment so it would be important to get buy in to the project, make a clear plan and keep going to the end.  But the resulting policy will be worth it.

What advice would you have for other Trusts looking to use co-design to revise any maternity guideline or policy?

It is the best way and Better Births, the national maternity review which is now being implemented, says that “Local Maternity Systems should be responsible for… ensuring that they co-design services with service users and local communities”.

The mechanism for doing this is through Maternity Voices Partnerships. You can find more information here. Co-design ensures the views of all parties are considered and included and enhances understanding of the issues involved.

Read more about this project here.