Review into litigation guardian service under way – Minister
A review of the island’s litigation guardian system – to represent children in court – has begun in collaboration with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Tinee Furbert, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors, told the House of Assembly on Friday that stakeholder consultation had already begun, and a training course would be provided for those interested.
She said: “To assist us in reviewing the litigation guardian service and any improvements that can be made, two highly experienced court professionals will be working with us over the next nine months.
“They will be supporting Bermuda to determine the model that works for us, taking into account the experiences of other jurisdictions. Their role is supportive and advisory.”
Ms Furbert said the cost for the professionals would be covered by the FCO, and they would deliver a six-month training programme on litigation guardian service.
“The training will be open to all professionals, including the litigation guardians themselves of course, litigation counsel, members of the judiciary and social workers,” she said.
“This is not an exclusive list and there are some key individuals who will also benefit from being involved in this programme.”
Ms Furbert added that work to replace the Child Care Placement Board with a Children’s Commission – who would advocate for children in care – was ongoing with legislation expected to come to the House this year.
An independent living programme to help those who “age out” of Government care at 18 is also still in the works, she said.
“The programme will provide stable housing and intensive support and guidance to assist these young persons in developing the life skills necessary to become successful and productive citizens,” Ms Furbert said.
The programme will work in collaboration with workforce development to ensure that participants engage with career development officers.
Ms Furbert said the Department of Child and Family Services was also working with the Ministry of Public works to establish a home for young men in the programme, while the Haven has been selected to host female participants.
“Under a memorandum of understanding, the upper level of its bay view property will be dedicated for use by the independent living programme,” she said.
“There will be professional staff – independent living coordinators – and support staff engaged to implement the programme.
“Staff will come on-board trained in working with young persons with complex needs and will be equipped to deliver programming in accordance with best practice standards on youth independent living services.
“Having staff who understand trauma informed, strength based service delivery and the performance quality improvement process will ensure a seamless and successful implementation of a quality programme.”
While the programme was originally hoped to begin in June, the launch date was pushed back to September because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Furbert said that efforts for Bermuda to be included under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities has continued – but more work must be done before Bermuda is compliant with the convention.
She said that technical officers had carried out a review of the convention to determine what steps must still be taken and identify areas where Bermuda was non-compliant.
“It should be noted that compliance is island-wide and not limited to Government Departments and services,” the Minister said.
“The good news is that Bermuda is compliant in many areas but there is still much work to be done.”
Responding to questions, Ms Furbert said one area that needs to be improved is employment of persons with disabilities in the private sector.
“Another area is social protection programmes to reduce poverty, particularly with women with disabilities,” she added.
Ms Furbert added that work on a Seniors Strategy was ongoing, as were efforts to support the island’s homeless residents.