Joint statement from the Children's Convenor and President of the Child Youth and Community Tribunal (CYCT)
The Committee for Health and Social Care (the Committee) has a legal duty to take steps to ensure that any conditions attached to a care requirement are observed and to request a review of a care requirement where it believes that a condition is no longer required or should be varied.
The Convenor and President of the Child, Youth and Community Tribunal (CYCT) are aware that a number of care requirements contain conditions relating to contact between children and their families that is either supervised, managed, directed or facilitated by the Committee. We are also aware of the fact that the Committee may have some difficulty in ensuring that all care requirement conditions are complied with during the current COVID19 lockdown arrangements.
We recognise the importance of contact for children and young people and we respect their rights to maintain contact with their families. We also appreciate that arrangements for contact between children and the people important to them may be impossible to deliver as directed in the care requirement while carrying out the essential requirements of social distancing. We therefore need to balance these rights with the need to ensure the safety of children, their families and those supervising and facilitating contact, and reduce their exposure to the risk of infection.
In consultation with the Head of Service, Children and Family Community Services we have agreed the following arrangements for the duration of the lockdown period:
If the Committee is unable to ensure that a condition on a care requirement is observed as a result of factors related to Coronavirus and any interruption in the operation of the condition is likely to be temporary, they should make safe interim alternative arrangements and advise the child and any other family member who is a party to the CYCT proceedings of their right to request that the Convenor arrange a review hearing. The key message should be that where Coronavirus restrictions mean the terms of a care requirement need to be varied, the spirit of the order should nevertheless be delivered by making safe alternative arrangements for the child.
Where alternative, interim arrangements for face to face contact between children and family members can be made safely, those should happen.
Where face to face contact is not possible, some form of contact using whatever technology is available to the child or young person should be arranged, provided that can be managed safely.
If the Committee is not able to restore usual residence and contact arrangements within a reasonable period, the Committee will either request a review or will notify the Convenor who in turn will consider whether to arrange a review.
Where the Convenor receives a request for a review from the Committee, a young person or other party to the proceedings, they will arrange a review hearing as soon as practicable where there is an immediate or serious risk of harm to the health, development or welfare of the child or young person or where the behaviour or conduct of a child or young person is causing or is likely to cause an immediate or serious risk to the health and safety of any person. In all other cases a review hearing will be arranged as soon as practicable following the end of the period of lockdown. Each review request will be considered carefully by the Convenor.
When considering contact arrangements during the lockdown period, Hearings of the CYCT will consider the need to ensure safety and reduce exposure to the risk of infection, and will explore and consider pragmatic and practical solutions to support contact arrangements. Tribunal Members must be satisfied that residence and contact arrangements are practical and safe for all parties involved, including children and young people, family members, carers, social workers and other Committee staff.
President of Child Youth and Community Tribunal