The establishment of the Collaborative Forum is a new approach in the State’s response to the theme of “nothing about us without us” which emerged from my consultations with former residents of mother and baby homes and their advocates.
These consultations were facilitated by Mr Jim Halley and he further assisted me in developing the proposal for a Collaborative Forum capable of responding to the issues raised by former residents. Mr Halley is a past Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Arbitration and he is an internationally respected mediator and facilitator.
I believe that the establishment of this innovative collaborative process will enable stakeholders to create and drive forward a process that they can support and trust. The fundamental principle behind the proposal is that those affected by a decision have the right to be centrally involved in the decision making process.
I have published a Charter for the Forum which sets out the general functions of the Forum; provides a blueprint for its programme of work, and details key principles in the methodology and approach to be adopted in this important work.
The size and membership of the Forum will appropriately reflect its focus to directly support and engage with those who were resident for a time in these institutions and those with comparable experiences in the former County Homes.
I am in the process of setting up a Selection Panel to oversee the independent selection of representatives to the Forum. The establishment of an effective selection process is essential to the successful commencement of this project. For this reason I have identified some key persons and organisations from the areas of human rights promotion and protection, former residents and their advocacy groups, and academics with professional experience in relevant areas to assist in this process.
In selecting members to the Forum, the panel will be obliged to have regard to relevant considerations to ensure a balance and diversity of stakeholder perspectives and experiences is achieved. The Panel will agree the criteria for selection and the arrangements for a public information campaign to seek expressions of interest from relevant persons.
The Deputy may wish to note that the umbrella organisation to which she refers has been invited to participate in the selection process and its members can respond to the call for expressions of interest in due course.