Trustee vacancy: Medical Justice Treasurer
(We also need other trustees, so do apply if you would like to be a trustee even if it’s not as the Treasurer)
Though not a requirement, we particularly welcome and encourage applications from people with lived experience of the asylum process and/or immigration detention.
Medical Justice is seeking a Treasurer to join our Board of Trustees.
Medical Justice was set up in 2005 by a man on hungerstrike in an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) and the volunteer doctor who visited him and wrote a medical report that helped secure his release. People with lived experience have been trustees of Medical Justice ever since. Today we have a team of 38 volunteer clinicians, 20 volunteer interpreters and 18 members of staff. Medical Justice remains the only charity sending volunteer clinicians into all the UK’s IRCs to document clients’ scars of torture and deterioration of health in detention, and to expose instances of medical mistreatment. We use medical evidence to secure lasting change through research, strategic litigation and policy, parliamentary and media work.
“It has strong characteristics and a highly respected reputation. It is regarded as principled, expert and evidence based, tenacious in its casework and policy work, fierce and ferocious when needed and brave in the way it speaks truth to power.” – Ceri Hutton, author of the independent Evaluation of Medical Justice
“They stand out as an uncompromising advocate. A loud voice in a clearly identified niche.” – Funder, interview for the independent Evaluation of Medical Justice.
The trustee role
Being a trustee is a rewarding role. You will be joining a strong team of experienced Trustees who include people with lived experience of detention. Our trustees bring their expertise to shape the strategic direction of Medical Justice, ensuring our decisions are guided by our mission, our values and the best interests of our beneficiaries. Trustees have overall legal responsibility for our charity, making sure our finances and resources are well used and are required to participate fully in the governance of the charity. For more information see the Government Guidance or watch this video
The Treasurer will take the lead in financial governance and in shaping our financial strategy, supporting our Director in financial forecasting and budgets, and in liaising with our auditors. We have external accountants and our end of year accounts are audited so that our Treasurer does not need an accountancy background, but does need to be able to comment on our financial records and financial strategy and communicate effectively on these matters with other trustees. The pivotal responsibilities of this role means that the Treasurer is also a member of the Executive Committee of Trustees which meets online between full trustee meetings and when needed at times of crisis.
Where is it based?
The Medical Justice office is in Finsbury Park, London, N7 7DT. We would ideally like you to attend Board meetings in person in the office though some trustees attend some meetings online.
The role of trustee is a voluntary position. Expenses incurred in relation to fulfilling trustee duties can be paid by the Medical Justice, e.g. travel, phone top-ups.
What is involved?
We expect that that trustees prepare for (read papers, which involves a time commitment of between one to three hours) which are provided several days in advance and attend 4 Board meetings per year. The Treasurer is additionally expected to attend Executive Committee meetings 4 times a year – in person or online. Board meetings are on a weekday evening and Executive Committee meetings are during the day. You may need to attend occasional other ad-hoc meetings.
We are looking for someone who can commit to being the treasurer for at least three years. All trustees have to be re-elected every three years. The successful applicant will be required to disclose any unspent criminal records and be willing to undergo a basic DBS check.
The support you will receive
Medical Justice provides resources and can provide training for trustees on good governance and the duties of a trustee, as well as on charity finance. Trustees will also receive training on safeguarding and other key policies. Training costs are covered by Medical Justice. You will also have induction meetings with Medical Justice staff.
‘Buddying up’ with an existing trustee can also be arranged, and this is encouraged for those for whom this is their first time serving as a trustee. This involves meeting up with a longer-serving trustee outside of board meetings, occasionally or regularly, to discuss:
- The format, style and content of board meetings generally
- Papers submitted to upcoming trustee board meetings
- Experiences serving on the board
Who we are looking for
An understanding of the UK asylum system and immigration detention is particularly important and we welcome applications from those with lived experience. We have a strong commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.
Your relevant skills and experience could be from working, training, volunteering, interests or life experience – in the UK or outside the UK.
- A finance professional, ideally with knowledge of charity finance. Otherwise someone with an enthusiasm to learn, drawing on sound commercial experience and an understanding of small/medium-sized enterprise
- A strategic thinker with the ability to balance risk and opportunity
- A clear communicator able to bring financial information alive to non-specialists
- A willingness to play an active role in areas such as financial forecasting, reviewing budgets and liaison with external auditors
- An ability to take on responsibilities and liabilities as a Trustee and to act in the best interests of Medical Justice
- A capacity to think creatively and strategically and to exercise good independent judgement
- Effective communication skills
- A personal commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion
- Enthusiasm for our mission and vision
- A commitment to lead according to the values of Medical Justice
- A commitment to the Nolan principles of public life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership
Our current trustees have skills and experience covering lived experience of immigration detention, the asylum system, law, medicine, and marketing.
What difference will you make?
The current context of asylum and immigration is challenging, particularly with the increasing use of both detention and quasi-detention and uncertainty about how government policy will develop. The need for Medical Justice has never been more urgent, both in terms of case work with individuals and our endeavours to secure lasting change. Our responsibility is to work in the most effective way possible, using our resources wisely. The role of the Treasurer is therefore of vital importance to us.
“When someone tells you the doctor is coming it is like a saviour coming to save me from this hell that I am in” – former client
“[If Medical Justice had not made contact] I would have died. I was on suicide watch. I wanted to die. If Medical Justice wasn’t there, I would have been in the ground today” – former client
Valuing Lived Experience
Medical Justice has an organisational commitment to improving the representation of people with lived experience at all levels of organisation, especially the trustee role. We recognise that some potential candidates who bring the voice and lived experience that we need, may have had less opportunity to develop a track record in this role. We are keen to look beyond the traditional review of your qualifications and work experience to what relevant knowledge and skills you may have acquired through your life experience. Medical Justice considers lived experience as real expertise and as vital to the organisation.
To reflect the composition of our client group, and in any case, we welcome and encourage applications from refugees and other migrants, and in particular from people with lived experience of detention – this could include detention in another country, or in the UK (immigration detention in an immigration removal centre, prison or institutional asylum accommodation such as military barracks). Whilst the fact that your lived experience will be of relevance, there will be no expectation that you talk about your personal experiences.
Completed applications must be received by 28th February 2024
Please email your CV to our chair of trustees, Ruth Talbot on email@example.com. If you do not have a CV, you may provide a written, audio or video summary of your education, experience and skills.
Ruth will email you back an application form which should be completed and returned by 28th February 2024. This will include an explanation as to why you are interested in being a Medical Justice trustee.
If you are an expert by experience (with direct, first-hand experience of immigration detention or the UK asylum or immigration system), we may be able to arrange for independent and confidential support for your application from the Experts by Experience Employment Network (of which Medical Justice is a member) who may be able to provide a mentor to support your application.
You can ask for an informal conversation about the role and about Medical Justice before you make an application. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to an informal interview with the one of the Chair of Trustees, current Treasurer or Director. The costs of participating or attending can be paid by Medical Justice, e.g. travel or phone data. The preferred candidate will then be invited to observe a board meeting so that both they and the organisation can feel confident that the role and organisation is right for them.
Please email our chair of trustees, Ruth Talbot, on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like further information about the role or to have an informal discussion with her, or an existing trustee, or the Director.
Support from Experts by Experience Employment Network
We are proud to be a member of the Experts by Experience Employment Network, which aims to increase representation of people with lived experience in the charitable sector. Please feel free to use information and resources at https://www.ebeemployment.org.uk/ebe which may help in preparing your application.
About the need for Medical Justice
Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) in the UK are so harmful that Medical Justice believes the only solution is to close them down. Meanwhile, we aim to assist as many people held in immigration detention as we can and to campaign for lasting change.
Immigration detention in the UK is arbitrary and indefinite. It is not part of any criminal sentence nor is it ordered by a judge, yet 20,354 people were detained in year ending June 2023 in IRCs, mostly run by private companies, and in mainstream prisons. Many have mental and physical scars of torture and other forms of persecution. Their medical conditions are often exacerbated by, and sometimes caused by, prolonged detention and inadequate healthcare.
Medical Justice clients include men, women and children who are survivors of war, torture, trafficking, and rape. Many have fled persecution due to their political activity, religion, and sexual orientation. Many end up being trafficked and during long, perilous journeys to the UK, get detained, raped, extorted, and sold, some a number of times over. Some arrive with untreated injuries, are extremely sick, mentally ill and left with complex medical needs. Immigration detention can exacerbate medical conditions and be the cause of mental illness, yet healthcare in IRCs is inadequate.
Medical mistreatment in detention is rife and inquests have found that neglect has contributed to deaths, including an 84 year old who died in handcuffs. One man died after 6 days in detention, in a segregation cell, naked and emaciated, having suffered psychosis, dehydration, malnourishment and hypothermia – he had received no medical treatment whatsoever. Last year there was a ‘mass suicide attempt’ after a Colombian man – Frank Ospina – died in detention, reportedly by suicide.
Our latest audit of medico-legal reports for 66 detained clients show that ;
- 79% had of a history of torture, 38% of both torture and trafficking. The mental state of all had been harmed by detention
- 95% of the clients had a diagnosis of at least one mental health condition
- 74% clients were recorded as having self-harmed, suicidal thoughts and/or attempted suicide
- Uses of force included during transfer to segregation, removal from suicide netting and transfer to hospital
Abuse in detention – BBC Panorama undercover filming exposed widespread mistreatment inside Brook House IRC, including a vulnerable detained person being choked by an officer who threatened to kill him, and being demeaned and threatened by other officers with further violence after a suicide attempt. A subsequent public inquiry found a dangerous use of force, a wholesale failure of safeguards and a culture of dehumanisation led to 19 instances of inhuman or degrading treatment at Brook House during a 5 month period. Dysfunctional safeguards were found likely to have caused actual harm to vulnerable detained people who were allowed to deteriorate in their mental and physical health, putting them at risk of mistreatment.
Healthcare staff in IRCs do not understand their safeguarding obligations and have a tendency to view detained persons as wilfully disobedient and obstructive instead of understanding their behaviour may be manifestation of mental anguish or ill health. This is interlinked with the inappropriate use of segregation and a quick resort to the use of force on people who are physically unwell and to ‘manage’ symptoms of mental illness, self-harm and mental health crises. Force is used unnecessarily and excessively in widespread cases. Unauthorised and potentially lethal “control & restraint” techniques were being used. Approved techniques were being used incompetently, becoming dangerous and risking injury. It has gone without proper scrutiny until the Inquiry.
There was found to be normalisation of the infliction of pain, suffering and humiliation, even whilst detained people were naked, and in one case where a man was emaciated and could barely hold his own body weight. Use of force against naked detained persons was “unusually high” and was a direct consequence of the “no notice removal window” policy. The Inquiry found a “toxic culture” at Brook House, a “culture of dehumanisation of detained people”, and a “breeding ground for racist views”. Evidence of pervasive derogatory and violent verbal abuse and racism revealed an underlying lack of any empathy even when people were at their most distressed and vulnerable – even in life-threatening situations.
Despite Medical Justice and others reporting these issues to the Home Office for many years, the abuses continue. Home Office and IRC staff, including some who are still in post, were described by the Inquiry as ‘unapologetic’ and ‘intransigent’.
Immigration detention is indefinite. It is not part of any criminal sentence. Many trafficking survivors are wrongfully convicted of crimes they were forced to commit, jailed, and then held in indefinite immigration detention in mainstream prisons. 78% of the 20,354 people held in immigration detention in 2023 were eventually released back into the community.
The Home Office uses charter deportation flights. There were 3 such flights on one day alone. Charter flights to Albania have ramped up, especially since the Home Office signed an agreement with Albania to expedite removals, we are dealing with distressing levels of suicide attempts. Most of our Albanian clients are trafficking survivors. In November there was a protest after two detained Albanian attempted to kill themselves in Brook House – one died and the other was swiftly deported but immediately returned to the UK and detained again.
On the horizon : The Illegal Migration Act (IMA) is set to ban asylum seekers entering the UK via an ‘illegal’ route from claiming asylum, to detain them indefinitely, and to deport them to a ‘safe third country’ – with few returns agreements other than with Rwanda (which has been found unlawful), this would mean mass incarceration of people held in perpetual limbo. The Refugee Council estimates 190,000 (including 45,000 children) could be detained over 3 years. The government is developing new IRCs and asylum seekers are being held in emerging quasi-detention sites, including military barracks and the Bibby Stockholm barge where an Albanian man died last month.
Some points relevant to trustees from a 2021 independent Evaluation of Medical Justice
- “They have been bold enough to take litigation against the government in ways which others haven’t and basically not set a limit to the challenge they make through their policy work. That’s something which is not just a credit to the staff at but also to the trustees – I know the debates which go on in small organisations and the risks such decisions entail.” (Lawyer)
- A commitment to making hard-nosed judgement calls in favour of using resources well. Staff and trustees are constantly considering whether or not engaging in various forums, policy issues or cases uses their expertise to best effect or whether others are best left to do the job.
- “As a doctor, the quality of the medical reports we did was really integral to my happiness at being a trustee. I was proud of what we produced, and still am even after having left the board. I felt as a doctor my reputation was never in jeopardy, and that the reports were of outstandingly high quality.” (Volunteer doctor, former trustee)
- The staff team at Medical Justice are viewed as a team of highly committed individuals with a strong commitment to the issue, guided by individuals (both at senior staffing level and on the trustee board) with institutional memory and long experience in judging tactics and approaches within policy and legal fields.