‘We must get this right and protect our children’

AFTER spending much of his childhood in care, Alderney representative Steve Roberts said he had ‘no problem’ with courts intervening in family matters involving children.

Alderney representative Steve Roberts. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 31507543)
Alderney representative Steve Roberts. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 31507543)

He was speaking during debate on the much-heralded review of the island’s Children Law, which is focused on reducing unnecessary delays within the system, particularly public family law. It is the first time the law has been reformed since 2004.

Deputies voted overwhelmingly in favour of 28 propositions, as amended, that were intended to limit duplication between the tribunal and the courts.

Mr Roberts said the debate was close to his heart, following his own experiences with homelessness as a teenager and being in care.

‘I was fostered from age four to 14. My parents lived within two miles of my house. They were divorced, but never visited me as a child,’ he said.

‘I know how a child feels at this age.

‘My wife, who I was married to for 38 years, was also in a children’s home, and also suffered abuse as a child by family members.

‘In the end that was dealt with by the courts and she, like myself, survived.’

He applauded each of the changes to the law proposed by deputies, and their intentions to upgrade the laws to protect vulnerable children and young people.

‘The more we get this right, the better our society will be for it. Some children are unlucky and need help, mostly because of human failures.

‘We must get this right and protect our children.’

Deputy Heidi Soulsby said she had seen first-hand situations where intervention from lawyers had made family relations worse.

‘One area I hope makes progress is mediation. There are precious few mediators, and they all tend to be advocates. I have seen cases where family relations have broken down irretrievably when lawyers have got involved, when a different approach may have made things run more smoothly and the lives of children less tormented,’ she said.

Deputy Andrea-Dudley Owen, president of Education, Sport & Culture, said the success of a child depended on many factors, but most importantly their family life.

‘If there is anything we can do to support that stability, care and nurture of a child within the family we must do.

‘A child must be in the right place in the morning in order to access their learning to feel that they belong at school.

‘Some of our most vulnerable children don’t feel like that because they don’t have the support from their family.’

She said some families were simply not in the right position to give their child the support they deserve.

‘Everything we do must be compassionate and must be child-centred.’

Health & Social Care president Al Brouard thanked colleagues for their contributions to the debate and shaping the new law.

‘I don’t usually like a challenge but the challenge has been helpful.

‘It has drawn out areas people are concerned with and reflects the chamber working well.’

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