I move Amendment No. 95:
In page 11, subsection (2), to delete lines 34 to 36 and substitute the following:
"(2) A supervision order shall authorise the health board to have the child visited on such periodic occasions as the board may consider necessary in order to satisfy itself as to the".
The purpose of these amendments is to clarify the respective responsibilities of the courts and the health boards with regard to the detailed implementation of the supervision orders. Supervision orders are a new concept to our law. At present, where the welfare of a child is giving cause for concern, a health board may either seek a fit person order to have the child placed in care or else leave him at home and hope that the parents will allow social workers, etc to have access to him. A supervision order represents a compromise between these two extremes. Under it, the child remains at home but the health board is given a guaranteed right of access to him. These amendments seek to clarify the manner in which this access is to be arranged.
Under the present draft the court directs the health board to have the child visited on such periodic occasions as the court may determine. It has been put to me that this is a very cumbersome and unnecessary approach. What would happen if, for example, a court ordered that a child be visited weekly but after one or two visits the health board came to the conclusion that the situation was so serious that he should be visited every other day? Under the present draft, the health board will have no discretion whatever in the matter but would have to go back to court and make a request to vary the terms of the order. This would take time, during which the child could be left at serious risk. Similarly, if a court directed that the child be visited daily, a health board would be enabled to reduce the frequency of visits if the home situation were to improve.
The first amendment, No. 95, seeks to avoid problems of this kind, by providing that the court would grant general authorisation to the health board to visit the child on such occasions as the board consider necessary. This means that the health board would have discretion to decide on the frequency, duration and timing of visits, depending on the particular circumstances of each particular case. The granting of greater authority and discretion to the health board brings with it the possibility of parents becoming aggrieved at what they might consider to be over-intrusive supervision by the health board.
I have decided to make an additional provision in the second of these amendments, No. 96, which would enable parents and personsin loco parentis to apply to the court if they consider that the frequency of visits, etc. is unreasonable. The court would be able to hear both sides and, if necessary, give directions to the health board with regard to how they are to operate the supervision order. These two amendments taken together are a reasonable and balanced response to the concerns which have been expressed to me and will help to ensure the smooth operation of these orders.
Amendment No. 109 is a consequential change in section 19. At present, paragraph (b) of section 19 enables the court to vary or discharge any condition or direction affecting the child who is the subject of a care order, a supervision order or an access order. This form was the correct one when the Bill was originally drafted. However, I am advised that it needs to be changed as a result of the insertion of the new subsection (3) in section 16 which enables the parent or person actingin loco parentis who is dissatisfied with the manner in which a health board is implementing the supervision order to apply to the court. It also enables the court to give such directions as it sees fit as to how the order is to be operated by the board. While such a direction might affect the child concerned, situations could arise in which the child would not be directly affected. What is proposed, therefore, is that the reference to affecting the child be deleted and that the paragraph simply provide that the court may vary or discharge any condition or direction attaching to the order.