Background and philosophy
The welfare of children is at the heart of the Children Laws, which represent the first major update to laws governing children and family life in over forty years. The Laws emphasize the responsibilities of the parents and others caring for children. The welfare of children is subject to considerations of public interest and safety and the Laws recognise this. They also recognise that the States has responsibilities too in supporting families that may be struggling and ensuring that when children cannot live at home they have the next best thing to loving and competent parents. The Laws give better support and protection to children and young people who need it, which includes involving the community in decisions about children at risk.
- Introduce twelve child welfare principles.
- Support those working with children and young people and take notice of children's views in decisions about their lives.
- Help services in working together better with children and their families.
- Bring the Law into line with the realities of modern family life.
- Tackle the causes of child offending to prevent further crimes.
Some of the new developments introduced by the Children Law:
- The Child Youth and Community Tribunal
A welfare-based system, modelled on the Scottish Children's Hearings system. It replaces the Court in the majority of cases where there is a need for compulsory intervention either to protect children and young people from harm or to support children and families to change harmful or risky behaviours.
- New Orders for children where parents have separated.
A range of orders are available to the Court for issues relating to children when families separate, these include decisions about where a child may live and who they have contact with.
- New Orders for children in need of care, control or guidance.
Known as Public Law Orders this part of the Law makes changes to the previous ways of working with children in need of care and protection and those who offend.
- Services for children in need and at risk.
The Law defines who is a child in need of additional services which may be provided by the States. When a child is at risk of serious harm there are compulsory intervention measures which clearly set out when the Committee for Health and Social Care will become involved.
- Duty on agencies to work together and share information.
The sharing of information is vital to ensure that children and young people get the services they require. It is also essential to protect children and young people from suffering harm, abuse or neglect and to prevent them from offending.
Other duties include the duty of the Committee for Health and Social Care with other States Committees and relevant Children's Voluntary Organisations to prepare a plan for providing services to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and their families.
- A Child Protection Committee
The Islands Child Protection Committee has responsibility for coordinating, protecting and promoting children's welfare throughout Guernsey and Alderney. This Committee is made up of senior representatives from various States Committees and other private and voluntary agencies working with children and families
- Child Welfare Principles.
The Children Law sets out 12 Child Welfare Principles, which must be considered by any public authority working within the law.
The Child Welfare Principles
The overriding principle is that the child's welfare is the paramount consideration
The other child welfare principles to consider are:
a) that a child's welfare is normally best served by being brought up within his own family and community,
b) that, where it is not possible for a child to be brought up within his own family or community, his welfare is normally best served by maintenance of regular contact with his family and community,
c) that no compulsory intervention shall be made in respect of a child, unless it is necessary for the effective provision to the child of care, protection, guidance or control,
d) that any delay in determining a question about a child's upbringing is likely to be prejudicial to the child's welfare,
e) that irrespective of age, development or ability, a child should be given an opportunity to express his wishes, feelings and views in all matters affecting him,
f) that, except where it is shown to the contrary, it is presumed that a child is capable of forming a considered view from the age of 12 years,
g) that a child in the care of the States is entitled to be provided with, and may expect to be subject to, insofar as is reasonably practical, similar levels of care, protection, guidance and control as would be expected to be provided or exercised in respect of a child by reasonable parents,
h) that in any case involving criminal activity, or the risk of criminal activity, by a child, the primary purpose of any compulsory intervention shall be the prevention of such activity in both the short and long terms,
i) that it is expected that parents and any others responsible for a child's welfare will consult and co-operate with one another, and where possible resolve matters by agreement, in an atmosphere of openness and non-confrontation, with recourse to formal proceedings (whether court or Tribunal) only as a last resort,
j) that it is normally in the best interests of a child to have ongoing contact with both parents and it is the responsibility of the parents and any public authority to take reasonable steps to promote such contact, and
k) that in determining any issue under this law there shall be no discrimination by any public authority on the grounds of gender, marital status, ethnic or cultural origin, religion, disability, age or sexual orientation.
Some new developments in the Criminal Law:
- Five considerations to be taken into account when dealing with a child who has committed an offence. Of these the main consideration is the prevention of offending in the long and short term.
- Age of criminal responsibility.
The age at which a child can be convicted under the Criminal Law is 12 years. Children under 12 can still be referred to the Tribunal if they are in need of guidance or control.
- Worried about a child?
- Case Conference
- After the Initial Case Conference
- Supplementary Guidance