This was the subject of the 42 Bedford Row Disability Law essay prize of £500 which was awarded to Polly Calver from Brasenose College. Runners up in the competition were Vincent Ooi from Trinity College and Jia Benjamin Mak, Balliol.
Some fifty people attended the Wadham prize giving ceremony and panel discussion on the issues raised by the question.
The panellists comprised the two competition judges, leading family law barrister, Tina Cook QC, and Professor Jonathan Herring, DM Wolfe-Clarendon Fellow in Law, University of Oxford. They were joined by Katie Phillips a family law barrister from 42 Bedford Row and Lindsay Lee, a Wadham student, former OUSU Disability Officer and disability activist. The panel was chaired by Wadham’s Marie Tidball, the chair of the organizing committee of the 42 Bedford Row Disability Law Essay Prize.
The 42 Bedford Row Disability Law Essay Prize has been set-up to draw attention to the professional challenges faced by legal practitioners and academics who work in fields in which issues relating to disability frequently arise. The event took place at Wadham during the University of Oxford's Disability Awareness Week in third week of Hilary Term 2016.
The 2015 BBC programme Don’t Take my Baby told the story of a disabled couple’s struggle to keep their new-born baby. The programme also highlighted the need to consider the rights of the parent, the rights of the child and the common good. International and domestic law takes into account, as it must, the interests of parents who have a disability as well as the interests of their children. For instance, Article 23(4) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides that: ‘States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child. In no case shall a child be separated from parents on the basis of a disability of either the child or one or both of the parents.’ In 2006 the Social Care Institute for Excellence reviewed existing research and found that “social workers and local authorities were less interested in supporting families with disabled members to stay together than in safe-guarding children”.