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Government unveils Child Protection Act

Six-week public consultation period kick off on Thursday

The government this morning unveiled its final draft of the Children’s Protection Act, initiating a six-week public consultation after securing the Cabinet’s approval.

Addressing a press conference this morning, Family Minister Michael Falzon said that following a long period of discussion, the government would now be publishing the law and launching a process of consultation, urging the public to have its say.

Giving a rundown of the changes being introduced, lawyer Andy Ellul said that the new law would see a number of existing practices being formally regulated. Timeframes for the issuing of protection orders, for instance, will be streamlined and will all have to be issued within 10 working days.

There will be five protection orders, Dr Ellul went on, instead of one single type of order. These will now include an emergency order, care order, supervision order, treatment order that helps parents by offering them treatments as well as removal order. In this case, unlike in the past, it is the perpetrators that are removed from the family home and not the children, to ensure continuity in the minors’ lives.

Read: Out-of-home children ‘must have rights as individuals’

Read: Voiceless, stateless, loveless: foster carers leap to defence of vulnerable children

There will also be the setting up of two new directorates – one for child protection and another for looked after children, while the head of Appogg will now have executive powers similar to those vested in the disciplinary forces (armed forces, prison wardens, etc) to ensure that investigations can take place in a swifter manner, Dr Ellul noted.

The existing Children and Young Persons Advisory Board will be replaced by a Review Board and will be “tantamount to a quasi-judicial tribunal”.

Dr Ellul went on to insist that all decisions outlined in the new law can be appealed.

The Child Protection Bill was tabled in Parliament five years ago by President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, then family and social solidarity minister. The draft law was revised by her successor as family minister, Michael Farrugia, and the new Bill was approved by the House in January of 2017.

But a legal notice bringing it into force was not published.

The current Family Ministry went back to the drawing board and consulted with all stakeholders – including foster carers, who voiced concern during a recent magisterial inquiry into the operations of a board that advises on out-of-home care.

The Maltese and English version of the law together with a presentation can be accessed here https://family.gov.mt/en/public-consultations-online/Pages/Child-Protection-Act.aspx. Feedback can be submitted by sending an e-mail on childprotectionact.mfcs@gov.mt.

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