Children’s Commission submissions can still be made
A review of children’s advocacy agencies included five jurisdictions across the world, a social development and seniors ministry spokeswoman said.
Commissions in Jamaica, England, Jersey, Malta and Australia were studied to help set up a replacement for Bermuda’s Child Care Placement Board.
Tinee Furbert, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors, said in Parliament last month that the island’s Children’s Commission will be expected to “advocate for the children in care, promoting best practice policy, programmes and service responses to meet their needs”.
She added: “We have conducted a review of the role of Children’s Commissions in other jurisdictions and have also reached out to key stakeholders in Bermuda for their views on the proposed Children’s Commission which I am currently considering.”
A ministry spokeswoman named the five jurisdictions and said: “It must be made clear not all countries’ children’s commissions function the same and there are different variations.
“Some countries do not have children’s commissions at all.”
She added that Scars – a child sexual abuse prevention charity, Parent Guide Bermuda, which specialises in infant and early childhood mental health, the Inter Agency Committee for Children and Families, Family Centre and the Coalition for the Protection of Children wrote to the ministry with their views.
The spokeswoman said: “There are still opportunities for persons to make submissions.”
Ms Furbert told the House of Assembly that she planned to table legislation this year to introduce the commission.
She added that the ministry was collaborating with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to carry out a review of the litigation guardian system, to represent children in court.
Ms Furbert told MPs in July that Anthony Douglas, a former chief executive of England’s Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, and Cyrus Larizadeh QC, a specialist children’s lawyer, will work with the ministry over the next nine months.
She said the “highly experienced court professionals” will support the island to find a suitable model for the service.
Mr Douglas was commended in 2018 for his “outstanding contribution” to improving the reputation of social work at a Social Worker of the Year awards in the UK.
The Guardian reported, when Mr Douglas stepped down after 15 years in the Cafcass role, that the quango was thought to have helped safeguard the welfare of 2 million children over the period.
Mr Larizadeh, who visited the island twice in 2019 to talk to members of the Bermuda Bar Association about child law, praised the Government last year for its appointment of a litigation guardians panel.
He helped to draft a child protection law in Anguilla, another British Overseas Territory, and became interested in Bermuda after island lawyer Saul Dismont did a placement at his London chambers in 2018.
Ms Furbert told MPs that the cost for the professionals would be covered by the FCO and that they would deliver a six-month training programme on the litigation guardian service.
She said in July that an independent living programme, to help people who “age out” of Government care at 18, was expected to launch next month.
Ms Furbert explained then that, in line with a 2020 Throne Speech pledge, “the Government will establish independent living coordinators who will devise individual plans for our young people coming out of care, to provide affordable housing options, post-secondary education and career advice as well as access to physical and mental healthcare”.
She added that the Department of Child and Family Services developed a programme to “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”.
A Government spokeswoman said that in addition to participants in residential facilities, the services will also be offered to some people living in the community.
She added that the possibility of an on-island centre to treat vulnerable children was “still under consideration”.
Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, who formerly had responsibility for the DCFS, said last year that legislation and services were consistently reviewed “to ensure Bermuda meets or exceeds international standards and best practices in the area of the protection of children”.
She added then: “As part of the ongoing improvement of services provided to vulnerable children, an on-island facility has been an integral part of the discussion.”
Ms Simmons said that decisions about additional services or facilities would be “based on data and evidence”.