The Child, Youth and Community Tribunal plays an extremely important role in the lives of many children and young people across the Bailiwick. With 40 Tribunal Members making decisions about children, young people and their families, President of the Tribunal, Ashley Rawles, explains how this part of the Children’s Tribunal System is continually reviewed to ensure the best decisions are made and standards are maintained.
Of the three independent public offices that make up the Children’s Tribunal Service for Guernsey and Alderney, it is the Child, Youth and Community Tribunal, sometimes known as the Tribunal or CYCT, that is responsible for making important legal decisions which ensure that children and young people receive the support and services that they need to be safe, loved, and guided.
The Tribunal listens to information presented by the young person, their family and the people who help and support them to decide what action is needed in the best interests of the child. Tribunal Members must make an informed and unbiased decision on whether there is a need for a legal order to be put in place to ensure that the child or young person receives the right care, protection, guidance and control.
Tribunal Members are volunteers who have an interest in the wellbeing of children and young people within our island communities. They are provided with extensive training and guidance to perform their role, but as President, how do I ensure that they are doing this role in line with what is expected of them?
This is where Monitoring comes in.
It is part of my role to monitor and develop the performance of Tribunal Members and this includes ensuring the practice of our Tribunal Members reflects the competencies of the role. To help me with this task, dedicated Monitors have been put in place. This provides further objectivity and additional assurance (as well as being President, I am also a Tribunal Member myself). The monitors support both me and the Tribunal Members by observing us within Hearings of the Tribunal and providing feedback.
There are currently four people who carry out this role. Alongside a knowledge and understanding of the legal framework and the competencies for Tribunal Members, they need to be able to objectively analyse and assess what they observe and draw clear conclusions, as well as be able to provide oral and written feedback confidently and sensitively. Monitors are completely independent from the Child, Youth & Community Tribunal; they are not there to analyse the decisions made, but to focus on Tribunal Member behaviour and practice.
When monitoring Tribunal Members, the Monitor attends the Hearing. They do not take any part in the Hearing but remain in the background where they can see and hear the Tribunal Members. It is made clear to everyone attending, especially the family and young person, why they are attending and that they are observing the Tribunal members.
Once the Hearing is finished and the family and professionals have left the room, the Monitor provides immediate verbal feedback to the three Tribunal members. They then provide written feedback, which includes a list of competencies that all Members are trained to meet, and whether these were achieved.
All Members are monitored in-person and the target for each Member is to be monitored twice a year. This brought challenges with it throughout the last few years due to the lockdown and social distancing measures limiting the number of people attending the Hearing. However, with the ability to conduct Hearings in person again, this number has continued to rise and our original target is firmly back in place.
As I have overall responsibility to monitor and develop the performance of Tribunal Members, I receive a copy of all monitoring reports. Comprehensive and thorough, they give me everything I need to ensure that Tribunal Members are maintaining the values of the System and to identify any areas for development or training. The current arrangements work exceptionally well and we are proud of our ability to provide this extra layer of quality assurance.
Tribunal Members also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback with me and, while it’s very rare, when issues of performance are identified, I will follow this up with the Tribunal Member and we will explore together how best to support them.
The monitoring report also assists me when considering whether to recommend Tribunal Members for reappointment. I look at the feedback over the last three years during our appraisal process and reflect on the Tribunal Member’s journey and progress, which gives me a much better idea whether that person should be recommended for reappointment.
Monitors are also able to attend the regular training provided to Members. This shows Members that they are committed to understanding the process and to ensuring that the Monitors are up to date with their practice. It’s also an opportunity to interact together in a less formal setting.
Ultimately, our aim is to ensure that families have the fair and just Hearing they deserve, which is why we value monitoring as a key part of the process.
One of our longstanding Monitors, Gill Couch, has been in the role for seven years and is Chair of the Monitoring Committee. Gill has commented to me that, "it’s a real privilege to watch these highly-trained people in action and it is not a role any of us take lightly. As a Monitor, you have to be able to evidence the feedback that you give, and it requires more than just good listening skills. You can listen and comment on what’s going on, but if you can’t provide evidence-based examples to support your feedback, it’s pointless. Our aim is to improve practice and allow Members to reflect."
If you would like to know more about our Monitoring please contact [email protected].