The House human rights committee on Monday called on state services to implement all procedures at their disposal to protect children in cases of violence.
The committee invited several state services to discuss the application of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child following the suicide of a 15-year-old boy two weeks ago, whose family was facing abject poverty, psychological problems and domestic violence.
His case was known to authorities since 2007. The cabinet ordered an independent investigation across four state agencies to determine if any had criminal or disciplinary responsibility.
Former Children’s Rights Commissioner, Leda Koursoumba told MPs that there are problems in the implementation of the convention arguing that the competent services seem to not understand how it should be implemented.
Koursoumba, who stepped down this month after 11 years serving as Children’s Rights Commissioner, said that a certain percentage of the budget should be earmarked for children, “something that has never happened in Cyprus.”
“This requires an interdisciplinary approach,” she said, adding that it not only the social welfare services that are involved, but also the education ministry, the state mental health services, the finance ministry and the police.
Representatives of state services said however, they were experiencing problems when dealing with cases concerning violence against children.
Senior official at the social welfare services, Maria Kyradji, said there has been an increase in such cases during the past 10 years. She said they are complex cases and that her service responds within its means.
The representatives of the state mental health services, the education ministry and the police raised the issue of parental consent which is not always given and as a result this makes their work more difficult.
Although in some cases the police obtained a warrant with the authorisation and escort by officials of the social welfare services, the court dismissed the case because there was no parental consent, the police office said, adding that there are civil lawsuits pending against the police for actions taken in this context.
The police representative also said the latest personal data law has further complicated the situation regarding the parental consent needed to refer the case from one service to another.
But associate of the labour minister, Fanos Kouroufeksis, referred to the existence of an interdisciplinary manual for children, adopted by the cabinet in 2017 that even covers suspicions of violence in the family. He also said that it is mandatory for all departments to implement it. On that basis, he added, no parental consent is needed for examination by a psychologist.
The head of the committee, Mariella Aristidou, sad that the necessary tools are there as regards domestic violence so that the competent services can intervene.
“We believe that the law is clear. Where there are gaps is on the implementation and the procedure on supporting the child in general cases of violence,” she said.
She said the state services have been asked to submit their suggestions so that these problems are addressed more effectively.