Government would review the 1998 Children’s Act (Act 560) to assess the extent of its implementation and effectiveness in order to chart a new course for the country’s children, Mr Stephen Amoanor Kwao Minister of Employment and Social Welfare, stated in Accra on Monday.
The Act was promulgated to reform and consolidate the law relating to children, to provide for the rights of the child, regulate child labour and apprenticeship, for ancillary matters concerning children generally and to provide for related matters.
Speaking at a four-day training workshop for District Child Panel Members, Mr Kwao said the best interest of the child should be paramount in any matter concerning a child.
The Child Panel is a non-judicial function by the District Assemblies to mediate in criminal and civil matters, which concern a child prescribed under the Act.
The membership of the Panel includes Chairman of the Social Services Sub-Committee of a District Assembly, who shall be the chairman; member of a women’s organisation; a representative of the traditional council; and the district social worker, who shall be the secretary.
The rest are a member of the Justice and Security Sub-Committee of the District Assembly; and two other citizens from the community of high moral character and proven integrity, one of whom shall be an educationalist.
Mr Kwao tasked the Panel Members to ensure that the best interest of the child was served as the primary consideration by any court, person, institution or other body in any matter concerned with a child.
“You are under obligation to ensure that no person discriminates against a child on the grounds of gender, race, age, religion, disability, health status, custom, ethnic origin, rural or urban background, birth or other status, socio–economic status or because the child is a refugee,” he said.
He said the ruling National Democratic Congress’s position on the child was non-negotiable, “as the child has a right to name and nationality, right to grow up with parents, parental duty and responsibility, right to parental property and right to education and well-being”.
Other rights the child is entitled to are right social activity, treatment of the disabled child, right of opinion, protection from exploitative labour, protection from torture and degrading treatment and right to refuse betrothal and marriage.
He said the law also mandated the District Assembly to protect the welfare and promote the rights of children within its area of authority and ensure that within the district, governmental agencies liaised with each other in matters concerning children.
Mrs Margaret Kutuati, former Director of Department of Social Welfare, who chaired the opening, commended the government for initiating the process for the establishment of the Child Panel System.