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The Minister with responsibility for Children, Samantha Sacramento has this week chaired a meeting of the Child Protection Committee having revised and restructured it and recently appointed its new members.

This Committee was created under the Children Act 2009, with the purpose of bringing together key agencies to ensure that local safeguarding arrangements and child protection procedures are effective.

The new Committee appointed, by the Minister for Health and Care, for a period of three years will seek to give renewed impetus to child protection and safeguarding procedures, while promoting the general mental and physical well-being of youngsters. One of the central focus of the revamped Child Protection Committee will include an emphasis on mental health and how these issues affect children in Gibraltar.

The emphasis on mental health comes in light of the experience obtained during the COVID-19 social lockdown, when there was a sharp increase in the number of referrals to the Care Agency relating to child and domestic abuse.

The new committee will also operate under greater transparency and accountability parameters than ever before. These will include a rigorous and comprehensive assessment of the performance and effectiveness of local services, identifying areas of weaknesses, its causes, and the remedial action required or being taken to address them.

Additionally, the Minister has commissioned training for the members of the committee to develop their strategic governance of safeguarding and protection of children in Gibraltar.

The Committee will operate on a streamlined structure, entrusted with the coordination of policies and strategic aims, with properly defined rules and responsibilities for its members.

The Committee will be chaired by the Chief Executive of the Care Agency, bringing together representatives from key agencies, such as, the Commissioner of the Royal Gibraltar Police, the Director of Education, the Medical Director of the Gibraltar Health Authority, the Director of Nursing and Ambulance service, the Clinical Lead for Mental Health, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Senior Crown Counsel from the Ministry for Justice and the Care Agency as well as representatives from other relevant areas of the public service.

Chief Executive Officer, Mr Carlos Banderas, said: “The new committee will be an effective mechanism in achieving our overriding aim of continuously improving child protection measures and interventions in Gibraltar. It will have our children’s interests at heart and ensure we can provide the necessary protection at all times.

Welcoming the move, the Minister for Health and Care, the Hon Samantha Sacramento, said: “As we carefully emerge from the effects of the Pandemic, it gives me great pleasure to launch the newly constituted Child Protection Committee. The existence of a professional and well-resourced multi- agency and multi-disciplinary Committee, will ensure that the welfare and well-being of children and young people in Gibraltar is safeguarded. Worrying data has emerged from this period in relation to child abuse in domestic settings, and I look forward to receiving the committee’s invaluable advice in order to ensure that our children’s needs and interests are put at the centre of all our safeguarding policies. We need to ensure that Gibraltar has the highest standards in Child Safeguarding & Child Protection across the board to ensure the welfare of all children and young people, and this strategic work will be led by this important committee”.