3 May 2012
In its submission to the government’s Green Paper for Vulnerable Children in March, the Catholic Women’s League’s identified family poverty as the major point of vulnerability.
Poverty can lead to poor housing, inadequate provision of basic needs, bad health, separation of parents, physical or mental handicap, violence, alcohol, drugs and gambling, the League says.
Children from such backgrounds are less likely to thrive, belong and achieve.
The ability to monitor vulnerable children is crucial for keeping them safe and reducing inequalities. This could be done using existing systems – Child, Youth and
Family’s national database, the National Immunisation Register, the District Truancy Service and the Child Protection Alert System.
But these services don’t work collaboratively or share information. Better communication and networking among agencies is essential, it said.
Deprived communities are often characterised as having high levels of benefit dependency, low incomes, family breakdown and crime. On the other hand these communities have strengths which should be tapped into and the League recommends investing in community development to find local solutions for local problems.
Nationwide feedback from CWL members has been totally in favour of all children having access to universal services which need to be agreed across political parties – services such as antenatal care, midwifery, paid parental leave, well child health, free GP visits, immunisation, quality early childhood care and education.
Family Court review
The League has also been looking at proposed changes to the Family Court, with unsustainable costs and long delays being the main issues. These can have a serious negative impact on family life, especially on children.
Feedback received for this submission indicates that long delays are the most worrying aspect. Lawyers involved should be accredited, and obliged to work collaboratively in the interests of the children.
As a prerequisite to filing applications in Court, they should be required to show that attempts have been made to get parties in agreement.
Measures to manage and reduce conflict between parents following separation must be encouraged.
Mediation should be free and compulsory, and take place before those involved need to progress to court.
If one party refuses to attend, or nothing is settled, they should be called to appear in Court and charged accordingly.
Mediation programmes should be advertised widely so that extended family, friends, churches and schools know that such help exists.
The parents must remember that their children’s welfare is of prime importance, more so than the parents’ rights.
Their children need to have some idea of the decisions being made about them, as spelled out in Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: ‘Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child.’
Meanwhile Sr John Bosco Kendall RSJ, above, has been appointed chaplain to the Catholic Women’s League, capping many years of working with league members to achieve their motto of faith and service. She will also be a spiritual mentor.