Barnardos Welcomes the Planned Reform of Guardian ad Litem Service
Barnardos has long advocated for the reform of the Guardian ad Litem service. The children’s charity welcomes the news Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, is to bring the heads of a bill - which deals with the Guardian ad Litem service - to Cabinet today. Barnardos would urge the Minister to publish this legislation as a matter of urgency.
June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos said “We particularly welcome the Minister’s reported intention to increase the number of children who can avail of this service. This is in line with the constitutional amendment guaranteeing children’s right to be heard and their best interests to be of paramount consideration.
“We would recommend that in amending the current service, the needs of children must be firmly at the centre of any proposed reforms. Currently, for instance, the Guardian ad Litem may sometimes engage a legal representative for a child if they feel it is necessary for the child’s best interests to be represented. We would stress the complexity of such cases, and the current adversarial court system means there are situations where legal representation on behalf of the child is required in order that their voice and interests are not lost. Any legislation should provide for these complex situations so that the needs of those most vulnerable are provided for.”
Ms Tinsley continued “Any legislation should ensure that the child’s voice is heard and that the child’s needs are central. We need to ensure, specifically, that the child’s care plan is not compromised. Currently it is the job of Tusla to devise a care plan for each child, and we must ensure the court is satisfied these care plans are child centred and are fully implemented. The Guardian ad Litem must have the ability to make adequate enquiries and make representation to the court on behalf of the child.
Barnardos has long campaigned for greater regulation of the Guardian ad Litem service and the need for an independent service to manage and oversee it, rather than a Tusla funded model, to ensure there is no conflict of interest in the court appointed system.”
Barnardos is eager to see this bill published and welcomes the Minister’s commitment to reform of the current system in the interests of the child.