Saturday, 25 July 2009

NSPCC in Jersey

A short while ago the Jersey Evening Post reported about the high cost to the Island of bringing over Guardian's from the NSPCC in the UK. It reported that there was one case. There are currently 3 cases that I know of using the NSPCC. They are bringing over these people to act as Guardian Ad Litems. This is a term used for the representation of a child in Court Proceedings by a Guardian who then also has to have local council. They are there supposedly employed to act on the behalf of the child in their best interests. Their role is ended on the conclusion of proceedings. These Guardian Ad Litems are not to be confused with the role of a Guardian who has care and control of a child.

One question is why are we not using local staff to fulfill this position, we have social workers here, and that is the profession of these guardians. Why are we importing these people at great cost to the tax payer. I can total approximately 20 visits I know of, just how much does a visit cost?

I also want to know why we are using these Guardians who operate with knowledge of UK law and not Jersey Law, and are therefore not from the same jurisdiction. How can a person from England claim after a couple of hours with a child and maybe the odd phonecall, that they know what is in their best interests?

The Guardian we have had the pleasure of a brief aquaintance with has not conveyed my son's wishes. In fact I have a copy of email correspondence in which the person writing the email states that all the 'guardian' wants to do is discredit me in Court.

The function of a Guardian Ad Litem in many cases in simply a sham, a device used to prevent the Court hearing the true wishes of the child.

If you are ever unfortunate to be in the position that you wish your child to attend court in care proceedings, below is a draft letter you can use, it would be up to you if you decided to appeal when your request is turned down as the opposing parties will object to this:


I wish my child to come to court to testify. Children suffer far more from a perhaps permanent separation from their families than from a few hours in court. Children who WANT to come to court to tell the truth will suffer far more from being forcibly prevented from doing this than from being allowed to do so. There cannot be a fair hearing if my principal witnesses are prevented from giving evidence, and therefore I shall appeal if this happens on the grounds that my human rights have been infringed.

Convention on the Rights of the Child
Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989
entry into force 2 September 1990, in accordance with article 49
Article 12 of the United Nations convention on children's rights gives a parent the legal right to call their children in judicial proceedings as quoted below.

Article 12 (child's right to participate in decision making)
1. Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

Any claim that this clause is satisfied by the appointment of a "guardian" or "independent solicitor" to represent the children's views by stating in court an opinion diametrically opposed to that of the children concerned should be exposed; this is simply a device to keep the children's true opinions and desires from reaching the court and as such a clear breach of the spirit of the convention.

In Mabon v. Mabon [2005] 2 FLR 1011, the Court of Appeal considered Rule 9.2A and the older line of authorities in the light of Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, and Article 8 of the ECHR. The court acknowledged the greater appreciation and weight which must now be attached to the child’s autonomy and consequential right to participate fully in the decision-making process that fundamentally affects his life. It held that
"in the case of articulate teenagers…. the right to freedom of expression and participation outweighed the paternalistic judgment of welfare."[paragraph 28].
However, if direct participation would lead to a risk of harm that the child was incapable of comprehending, then a judge could find that sufficient understanding had not been demonstrated. Judges must equally be alive to the risk of emotional harm that might arise from denying the child knowledge of and participation in the continuing proceedings [para.29].


jane said...

Hi One Day. I agree with your statement in principle, however would question the local skills. We have proportionately significantly less Social Workers per head than the UK and those we have are mostly only locally experienced. My experience of the local "children's services" and skills available on the Island for the "untouchables" has been deplorable. I have fought tooth and nail to get Jersey to listen to me. I finally succeeded at the Royal Court this Friday when Commissioner Hamon insisted under Article 29 of the Children's Act that the Minister review the process that my daughter has been through. She has been diagnosed with 2 mental health issues that have been ignored, She had consumed more neat vodka in the last year than most people would do in a lifetime and during her SAO at Greenfields she had precisely 45 minutes of Alcohol and Drugs advice - I could go on forever (and will on my own blog soon). And yes, her behaviour has been deplorable and she was/is out of control - but that is not down to our parenting skills - it is as I am learning down to circumstances and facilities not helping early on as requested by me(my situation has been going on 3 years)
I suppose my comment to you One Day is perhaps there is no objective "Guardian" over here (the Island is too small and there are too many conflicts of interest)- we were lucky, I'd given my daughter's UK NSPCC Guardian reams of reading and she did take heed of my concerns and met with my daughter a couple of times. We were all asking for the same thing except for YAT and the Children's Services Advocate who was told to "pull her finger out" !! By the Court

One Day said...

Hi Jane,

I am pleased that you have made some progress in getting the help that your daughter needs. On the point you make about local skills, I do fully agree with you. Most of the social workers I have met to date, do not want to help children. When over the last year my son's behaviour is getting worse they have chosen to ignore my requests to help his situation, I have also been to the police station with him for him to be questioned on his involvement with a fire and malicious damage to a car, £3500 worth of damage which he admitted. There are other occasions when the police have also been involved.

Each case is different but as I am learning each case highlights different deficiencies in our local system. Something needs to change.

I have a friend who was in a similar situation to yourself. All I can say is that I hope your daughter does now get the help she needs, unlike my friends daughter who ultimately landed up at La Moye. You see she just landed up labelled as a problem child and did not treat the root of her problem. Many children are misunderstood, and as teenagers it is very hard if something traumatic has happened to tell their parents, behaving in an obnoxious way can be a way of attempting to communicate but not knowing how to deal with a situation themselves.

Anonymous said...

One day, I have the utmost admiration for your determination for Justice, in the same way I have admiration for your careful and sincere way you research your subject.

Long may you continue to hold those accountable for their gross failures in child issues. You will win one day and hopefully will sue those responsible for their gross failures.

mopinwil said...

Keep up the fight One Day. I will be following your case. If you can think of any way that people can help you in a practical way apart from voicing their support please let me know.

One Day said...

Thank you Mopinwil, your thoughts are appreciated. Unfortunatly I can t seem to find a way to give the Social Services a big dose of common sense and the steps to get off their high horse before it is too late for my son x