Looked-after Children - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 378-379)


30 JUNE 2008

  Q378 Chairman: I welcome Trevor Jones and Jean Robinson to our proceedings. We are very grateful that they can join us today. We are taking the inquiry into children in care—looked-after children—very seriously, and it has been a very good learning curve for many members of the Committee. We generally give our witnesses a couple of minutes each to give an opening statement to the Committee. If you do not want to make an opening statement, we can go straight into questions. It is your preference, but we always give you the right to make a statement.

  Trevor Jones: First, I want to thank you for the invitation. I am pleased that at long last we are being sought for evidence. I represent Parents Against Injustice—PAIN, for short—which was set up in 1985 to advise and support parents and carers who claim they have been mistakenly involved in child abuse investigations. We have been in operation for the last 23 years. Up to the late 1990s, we were funded quite substantially by the Government, but that funding stopped, so we are now a completely voluntary organisation. We advocate, represent and support the parent and carer as the service user in public law proceedings. I want to highlight the fact that in public law proceedings, certainly when children are being removed, there are really three parties involved—the state, the child and the parent. The last party is often ignored and not asked to the table to give their view—the parent's voice. That is what I want to stress as an important issue. We see it as an important issue simply because the key stakeholders in the various consultations and reviews had no representative. Certainly, when I first got involved in 2005, the child care proceedings review team key stakeholder meeting had no representative at all on the side of parents—as the service users—involved in public law proceedings. In consultations since, we have come up against the same problem. When the consultation on transparency in the family courts system started, the informal consultees numbered 41, but not one of those 41 consultees was there exclusively to represent the parent in public law proceedings. That has been an issue for advocates representing the parent, and I would like to highlight the checks and balances involved this afternoon. On the checks, we are questioning whether there are checks; on the balances, we are questioning whether there is an imbalance that is unfair to the parent. When I say unfair to the parent, I also mean unfair to the children, because we are looking at families, which include parents and children. That must never be overlooked. That is all that I can say in my opening remarks.

  Q379 Chairman: So Trevor, you have been involved for some time in campaigning on this issue. Given your involvement and your experience of other people's campaigning, would you say that things in this area have got steadily better?

  Trevor Jones: I have been actively involved for only five years, so my experience comes from the last five years, but Alison Stevens, who runs and chairs PAIN, has been involved right from the start in 1986, and she has seen very little change for the better. She is still there after 22 or 23 years, and she is advising and advocating on the same issues. Hopefully, the issues will become clearer during our evidence.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 20 April 2009