The Malta Independent 17 November 2018, Saturday

Child protection act to empower children and child care professionals

Thursday, 14 June 2018, 11:52 Last update: about 6 months ago

The recently proposed child protection act by the Ministry for Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity is set to empower children and child care professionals in a new way. In a press conference this morning at the ministry in Valletta, Minister Michael Falzon said the proposed legislation is being seen as a breakthrough in the field of child protection.

Falzon announced that a six-week consultation period starts today, and the first reading of the proposed bill is planned to be presented before Parliament closes for the summer. The minister stated that all stakeholders have been duly consulted afresh and many of their proposals are now incorporated in this Act. However any proposals to improve the bill are still welcome.

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Lawyer Andy Ellul spoke of the legal changes and proposals the new child protection act will be offering.

In the proposed new act, care and custody of minors in need of protection will no longer be entrusted in the hands of the minister and as such the minister will no longer be involved in the issuing of care orders. Government will no longer be directly or indirectly involved in such sensitive decisions. Decisions will be taken either by the Juvenile Court or by the Review Board, as the case may be. The Review Board will not only be consultative in nature as the current Children and Young Persons Advisory Board, but it will be tantamount to a quasi-judicial Board.

This does not mean that the State will be completely divested from all responsibility in the case of children removed or separated from their parents and placed in out-home care. It shall remain responsible to take all appropriate measures to promote the well-being of children and to provide all the support services required, to ensure that children’s rights and interests, as safeguarded by this Act, are provided.

The Act intends to remedy a situation where the State literally interferes into the children’s wellbeing without there being the presence of a Court of Law, representing independence and impartiality, to assess the cases and cater for a care plan which will ultimately provide for the future of the children concerned. This Act also intends to bring the Maltese ‘care order’ system in line with judgements of the European Court of Human Rights and of the Maltese Constitutional Court.

 

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