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Benjamin Awkal​ January - April 2019

Since my last blog post I have completed a number of research tasks. One particularly interesting piece of work I have undertaken was the production a paper analysing the legal frameworks relating to bail in England and Wales, Canada, New Zealand, and New South Wales. This was a challenging and lengthy project which occupied much of my time in the New Year. The process was one of detailed technical analysis of the relevant statutory provisions and case law, and involved corresponding with international contacts; including a Canadian legal practitioner I previously studied with, and officers of the New South Wales Parliamentary Counsel’s Office. Another interesting research task was producing a briefing paper on the Isle of Man’s relationship with the United Nations for the President of Tynwald, ahead of him addressing the Isle of Man United Nations Association.

The majority of my time this year has been spent undertaking Committee work. The Social Affairs Policy Review Committee has been particularly busy conducting its suicide inquiry. This comprises almost 30 lines of inquiry and, to date, the Committee has taken oral evidence from 11 sets witnesses, with a further five scheduled. Witnesses have included people affected by suicide, and experts on mental health, wellbeing, bereavement, and suicide prevention. Such intensive evidence collection has necessitated a number of extraordinary meetings and a significant amount of secretariat work; whilst the evidence itself has, obviously, required analysis. Additionally, following its general oral evidence session with the Minister and Chief Executive of the Department of Education, Sport and Culture, the Committee is concurrently inquiring into ‘better outcomes for children and young people’ and the draft Education Bill, and, after receiving numerous written submissions on the topic is to hold an oral evidence session dedicated to the matters. All of this, of course, has been on top of the Committee’s regular, ongoing scrutiny of the Department of Home Affairs, Department of Education Sport and Culture, and Department of Health and Social Care. 

The Select Committee on Accommodation for Vulnerable Young People has also been keeping me busy. Following the receipt of a joint memorandum from the Department of Infrastructure and Department of Health and Social Care on the issue of accommodation for vulnerable young people, the Committee issued a public call for evidence and wrote to a number of third sector stakeholders requesting written submissions on the topic. At this stage, I produced a paper on the best practice as regards supporting and accommodating care leavers; providing a benchmarking tool during the Committee’s subsequent inquiries. In February, we went and visited a drop-in centre run to support care leavers and young people who are estranged from their families; where we met support workers and service users to discuss the challenges they face. Following the receipt of its written evidence, the Committee held a number of oral evidence sessions. Evidence was taken from the Chief Executive of Autism Initiatives; representatives of the Department of Infrastructure, Department of Health and Social Care; representatives of St Christopher’s Fellowship (a third sector organisation contracted to support care leavers); an autism expert; the Isle of Man’s Autism Liaison; and the managing director of a company that utilises private equity to provide specialist accommodation to local authorities, housing associations and care providers. The Committee is mandated to report in May and, following the conclusion of its evidence gathering, I have begun drafting its Report. Supporting the Select Committee has been a great experience, which, once the Report has been received by Tynwald, will have allowed me to clerk an inquiry from inception to conclusion.  

I have additionally​ continued supporting the Office’s education and outreach programme. Lately I have joined Emma in hosting workshops for Castle Rushen High School students on the composition and functions of Tynwald, and last week I gave a class of visiting primary school students a tour of the Tynwald Chambers.