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Wyatt looks at beefing up Children’s Authority
The first task of the 16-member Child Protection Task Force established by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar will be to look at giving strength to the Children’s Authority. So said chairman of the task force Diana Mahabir-Wyatt at a media briefing after a meeting with Persad-Bissessar at the Parliament Building yesterday. “One of the things that we are going to address first is the matter of the Children’s Authority and getting it up on its feet,” Mahabir-Wyatt said.
The task force’s first report, which will focus exclusively on the authority, is expected to be presented to Persad-Bissessar before Christmas. A sub-committee, led by Mahabir-Wyatt, will be responsible for delivering the report. “They have already drawn up the necessary recommendations about what they need in detail, including budget and once those are referred to us we will take a look at them and within two weeks we will be able to make a first report on the first part of the first terms of reference,” Mahabir-Wyatt said.
She said the authority needed staff. She said: “We can’t march into the CPO’s (chief personnel officer) office and say we want this money now to hire staff. “What we can say is that what we need first of all is approval of staff. I think that is the key thing. If we could get that approved before Christmas we can do something practical and immediate.” Giving her view of the abuse of children in the country, Mahabir-Wyatt described it as a cultural problem that could benefit from parenting programmes in all government schools.
“If we had started having parenting classes in all government schools 30 years ago when this proposal was made, people who are now damaging children, this would not be happening.” The task force also appointed chairmen for two other committees. One of these have been charged with examining legislation and the acts affected by the proclamation of the Children’s Act and will be led by attorney Hazel Thompson-Ahye.
The final committee will look at existing programmes that deal with the welfare of children with a focus on preventing problems. She said the task force needed to identify a list of these programmes. “We want to make sure that these existing programmes get the support that they need,” she added. This committee will be led by head of the Police Victims and Witness Support Unit, Margaret Sampson-Browne.
With two ministers on the task force—Gender, Child and Youth Development Minister Clifton De Coteau, Minister in the Ministry of Gender Raziah Ahmed—and permanent secretary in the Ministry Sandra Jones, the task force hopes for the Government’s strength and support to make a difference.
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