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 carelooked-after childrenvery 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 InjusticePAIN,
for shortwhich 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
involvedthe state, the child and the parent. The last party
is often ignored and not asked to the table to give their viewthe
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 parentsas the service usersinvolved
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.