Minister says childcare legislation set to be tabled imminently
A law designed to help children in care could be tabled in the House of Assembly this month, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors said.
Tinée Furbert said that the legislation was in its final stages of preparation.
She added that a replacement for the Childcare Placement Board was expected to be known as the Children’s In Care Advisory Council, not a Children’s Commission as was earlier thought.
Ms Furbert said: “We are in one of our last drafts of the legislation and it’s being reviewed by our legislative committee. We are hoping to table that legislation by February 18.”
She added: “The policy is so that we are strengthening the Childcare Placement Board that is in the Children Act.
“We’ve actually decided to change the name to a Children’s In Care Advisory Council.
“What the Throne Speech did indicate was a children’s commission specifically for children in care.
“However, when we got down into studying what this could look like for Bermuda – children’s commissions are for all children and it’s not just children in care.
“Bermuda being a smallish jurisdiction, we have things available to us such as children’s organisations who look out for the protection of children, we also have the Ombudsman’s office that has a responsibility to not just adults but also children as it relates to government services.”
Ms Furbert said: “We’re looking to address any sort of child-related issue under children safeguarding.
“We do have a children’s safeguarding committee that is also in the Children Act, so we’re going to be looking closely at the children’s safeguarding committee and to see how we can actually provide more protections for children under that sort of framework, instead of a children’s commission.”
The 2020 Throne Speech said that the “outdated” child care placement board would be replaced by a Children’s Commission to “advocate for the children in care, promoting best practice policy, programmes and service responses to meet their needs”.
Ms Furbert added that the number of litigation guardians – court-appointed independent advocates for children – could increase to at least seven.
Five people were on to the panel in December 2019 after it was first set up but the minister said that one has since resigned.
She explained that the contracts were up for renewal and the Ministry of Social Development and Seniors invited expressions of interest for the roles last month.
Ms Furbert said: “We are still in the process of assessing what that will look like for the panel.
“We’ve had quite a bit of interest in litigation guardians, I think we got close to 40 applications, so we should be good.”
MPs heard last 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, would work with the ministry in a review of the litigation guardian service.
Ms Furbert said that much of their work was carried out virtually.
But she added that Mr Douglas will return to Bermuda this month to help with training litigation guardians.