Giving evidence in public to the Social Affairs Policy Review Committee on December 1 we heard from Minister Robertshaw that the Protecting Children Board (PCB) - the renamed Safeguarding Children Board – currently has no legal basis and that it answers directly to the Council of Ministers.
Also neither Minister Robertshaw nor his acting chief executive, Ms Mellor, were aware if this board was registered under the Data Protection Act.
There is no reason they should have known as it falls outside their department.
But these answers will raise two concerns with parents.
Firstly, asked if the absence of legal backing for decisions by the PCB would be able to withstand challenge in court the minister said ‘I hope we do not get into that position...’ and went on to say that he had confidence in its performance.
Ms Mellor then told the committee that the PCB carries out a ‘regulatory role’ and ‘will review certain caseloads’ across various agencies but does not ‘have every case referred to it’.
The statutory authority needed to ‘regulate’ requires legal backing for the simple reason that our Human Rights Act exists to protect the citizen from actions of the State.
If the PCB is not legally part of the State how can it regulate or be held accountable for its actions?
Secondly, our Data Protection Act requires any organisation which may have sight of, or access to, highly sensitive and personal information - such as will be in reports on individual families who may get into difficulty - must be registered with Data Protection.
As the PCB may have the details of cases referred to it could the PCB, or the Council of Ministers to which it answers, please give families the comfort that it is registered with Data Protection as this could not be confirmed at the public hearing?