The Children’s Tribunal System ‘never lost sight’ of vulnerable children and young people in the Bailiwick throughout 2020.
The Children’s Tribunal System, the public body responsible for making decisions on behalf of children and young people in need of care, protection, guidance or control in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, has shared the impact and its response to the Covid-19 pandemic, as it continued to provide its vital service.
Known for its progressive approach to the welfare of vulnerable and at-risk children and young people, the organisation has shared its latest annual report, which details the work of The Children’s Tribunal System throughout 2020.
Key findings from the annual report included:
- Despite the pandemic leading to several changes in the way hearings of the Tribunal were conducted they continued throughout the periods of lockdown with only a small decrease in the number held compare with 2019.
- The Children’s Tribunal System was able to support 100 local children across 251 hearings and investigate referrals for 161 children.
- Over the year, a final decision was made on 245 referrals, 12% of which were referred to the Tribunal.
- Close to 70% of decisions made by the Convenor were made within 50 working days, with cases taking on average 14 weeks to be concluded by the Tribunal, meaning the organisation continues to resolve cases on average at a faster pace compared with Court based systems.
- The percentage of children referred for a second or subsequent time following a decision by The Children’s Tribunal System remains low – significantly lower than referral or re-conviction ranges in other parts of the system.
- The service remained cost-effective, with both The Office of the Children’s Convenor and The Child Youth and Community Tribunal working within their allocated budgets.
- Despite limited training opportunities due to cancellations, Domestic Abuse Awareness training and the Level 2 Safeguarding Children Course were able to take place for Tribunal members.
Gill Couch, chair of The Convenor and Tribunal Board, the independent body which has oversight of the system, said: “2020 was dominated by the pandemic. Like all public-facing services, the Children’s Convenor and Tribunal adapted quickly to the rapidly changing public health context and provided excellent guidance, support and training for the continuation of the effective delivery of their statutory responsibilities.”
“The flexibility and pragmatism shown by all involved was truly admirable, and the board is incredibly grateful to everyone for their commitment and hard work, never losing sight of the children and young people across the Bailiwick. Despite being unable to conduct in-person hearings, we adapted in the safest way possible, and it is a testament to the co-operation of everyone that hearings continued to be held to protect the most vulnerable children and young people in the Bailiwick.”
“We’d also like to say thank you to all the children, young people and their families who took part in hearings during this time. They showed great resilience in adapting to the ever-changing circumstances and new ways of doing things.”
The organisation has also reached out to the wider community to enhance understanding of children and young people’s challenges and difficulties following the pandemic to understand how best to support them.
Ashley Rawles, President of The Child Youth and Community Tribunal, said: “There is no doubt that 2020 was a hugely challenging year for us all. It has been my privilege as President to represent such a committed group of individuals who rose to the challenges and adapted to new ways of working. As a result, the children and young people of the Bailiwick were able to continue to be afforded the care and protection of the Tribunal system and were able to take part in the decision-making process.”
Karen Brady (shown in the main picture), the Children’s Convenor, responsible for investigating cases to decide whether a child needs to be referred to the Tribunal, said: “Our overriding priority throughout 2020 was to ensure that the best interests of children and young people remained central to everything we do. While we cannot predict the full impact of the pandemic we know that it has impacted on mental health and wellbeing. It is therefore vital that we remain vigilant to any signs that children or families may need additional help and support. As a holistic organisation that puts young people at the centre of what we do, we are well placed to ensure that they get the help and support that they need when they need it.”
During this time, the organisation also welcomed the extension of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to the Bailiwick.
Karen added: “This is a significant milestone in ensuring children’s rights are respected and protected across our islands. We are fortunate in the Bailiwick that some of these rights are embedded in our laws and in the welfare principles that underpin how we carry out our roles. Our Children Law is one of the most progressive in the UK and fully embraces the UNCRC principles of child-friendly justice. We continue to be incredibly proud of the non-adversarial, holistic and child-centred environment we provide for children and their families.
“The UNCRC however reminds us of our collective responsibility to promote and protect the full range of rights that children are entitled to expect and gives our young people a set of standards to which they can hold us to account.”
Deputy Al Brouard, President of the Committee for Health & Social Care, said: “Protecting children from harm and promoting their health, welfare and development is one of the most important roles for government. The steps that we take to support our young islanders can make a profound effect on them and their families for years to come.
“In a year where much was changed, I thank the Convenor and Tribunal service for their continued efforts and their commitment to maintain their vital services at what was a difficult time as we recover from Covid. As recognised in the Government Work Plan, supporting vulnerable children is a priority for the Assembly and I look forward to continuing to work with the Convenor and Tribunal – along with all other professionals and volunteers who collectively work to protect and support our young people – to ensure that we can together achieve the best possible outcomes for our children.”