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Children’s Act: Parts declared invalid

Changes to SA constitution seek to protect children’s rights.

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Lawmakers in South Africa have declared certain parts of the Children’s Act to be invalid, in a move to protect the rights of children. The changes to sections 151 and 152 were agreed upon in the Constitutional Court, and take immediate effect.

Key to the changes were findings that they failed to provide for a child removed from parental care and placed in temporary safe care to be brought before the Children’s Court for automatic review of the removal.

In terms of the Constitution, an order of constitutional invalidity by a high court must be referred to the Constitutional Court for confirmation, without which it will have no force.

An additional paragraph has been added to section 151. The paragraph reads: "The court ordering the removal must simultaneously refer the matter to a designated social worker and direct that social worker to ensure that, among other things, the removal is placed before the Children’s Court for review before the expiry of the next court day after the removal."

Section 152(3)(b) of the act was replaced by a section reading: "Refer the matter of the removal before the end of the first court day after the day of the removal to a designated social worker who must ensure that, among other things, the removal is placed before the Children’s Court for review before the expiry of the next court day after the referral."

The basis for the changes came as a result of children being removed from beggars (their parents) without a court order. The parents then approached the court in order to have their children restored to their care.

Implications are that children will now be introduced formally to social development departments, which will ensure the best possible outcomes for their cases, as well as protecting the rights of their impoverished parents. The 24-hour limit is designed to accelerate such cases.

Of course, the challenge remains to social workers, NPOs and others to assist these parents in getting off the streets, and helping them raise their children within stable environments.

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By: Scott Dunlop

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