Today [Friday 27th March 2009], in Harrogate, 100 top lawyers, doctors, and social workers will examine whether the Children Act 1989 – the law behind the Baby P case and the Doncaster child protection crisis – is still fit for purpose.
In its time, the 1989 Act was hailed as “the most comprehensive and far reaching reform of child care law which has come before Parliament in living memory” (1). It followed the much-publicised deaths of children from abuse and neglect in the 1980s – for example, Jasmine Beckford, Tyra Henry and Kimberly Carlile – and the removal to care of over 100 children said to have been sexually abused in Cleveland.
John Myers – barrister and head of the family team at Zenith Chambers in Leeds – says the multi-disciplinary conference will ask whether the Children Act 1989 has lived up to expectations: “Has the court system protected children in the way the Act intended? Has co-operation between agencies improved? Has the welfare of the child become the paramount consideration? How has support for families and safeguarding of children worked?”.
The conference – organised by Zenith Chambers – will hear from:
• Law Professor Mary Hayes of Sheffield and Swansea Universities, a family law specialist, and a Deputy District Judge in Magistrates Courts.
• Dr.Kate Ward, a designated Consultant Paediatrician at Airedale General Hospital.
• Paul Nixon, Assistant Director, Children's Social Care, North Yorkshire County Council.
• Jane Booth, Corporate Director, Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass) and previously at the Social Services Inspectorate and Assistant Director of Children’s Services in Kirklees.
John Myers added: “The conference will help us share best practice in child care law across the professions, and we’ll publish recommendations about the future of the Children Act 1989”
* * * * *
(1) The quotation is from the speech by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay to the House of Lords in the 2nd reading of the Bill on 6.12.98.