Focus: Policy and Politics - Question Time - Baroness Glenys Thornton Co-operative Party

Are there any parts of the Children and Adoption Bill you would change?

The Bill contains no measures to ensure children's safety during contact procedures following separation. There are still children who are being harmed and even killed during contact arrangements. I plan to table an amendment when the Bill reaches its committee stage, after the summer recess. The aim is to make it mandatory for the courts to carry out risk assessment.

Is this a new proposal?

I tabled a similar amendment in 2004, during the passage of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill, but the vote was drawn. Baroness Scotland argued this issue had been considered in the Adoption and Children Bill 2002, which also failed to recognise the need for children's safety proofing.

Are you going to consult children's charities on this?

Yes. Charities such as Barnardo's and Women's Aid are also calling for a mandatory risk assessment. I supported them and the NSPCC in their campaign to change the Adoption and Children Bill 2002 so that abusive parents don't have unsupervised contact with their children.

Do you think your amendment is likely to be accepted this time?

It's difficult to say. The Government believes safeguards are already in place, including the family court application form (C1A) that came into force in January and that seeks to clarify whether children are at risk.

My first move will be to put questions to ministers before Parliament's recess to find out if this is working. There are indications from charities that it is not, which would support the case for mandatory risk assessment.

Do other peers share your concerns?

Baroness Gould and Baroness Sharp of Guildford raised similar concerns during the Bill's second reading last month. There will be a meeting this week with peers and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children at which contact orders will be discussed.

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