Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has admitted that she and Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan were notified by letter that thousands of US dollars had allegedly been embezzled out of the Children’s
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PM decries vacancies at Children’s Authority
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday described as “unacceptable” the fact that out of 97 vacancies at the Children’s Authority, only 19 had been filled to date. Persad-Bissessar was speaking at the launch of the Break the Silence Campaign at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain. She has mandated Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development Clifton De Coteau to have the positions filled as soon as possible.
“The task force found that of 97 vacancies which currently exist, only 19 of those positions are filled. Can you believe that? “It cannot be acceptable that if we have 97 positions and only 19 are filled,” the Prime Minister said. This issue was among a list of recommendations which needed urgent attention listed in the first report of the Child Protection Task Force, which was presented to the Prime Minister late last year.
Persad-Bissessar said she also had instructed an inter-ministerial team to ensure that the authority was given financial resources so it could become fully functional by the expected date of June 2014. Statistics presented by the task force revealed that between 2007 and 2012 sexual offences and robberies were by far the most important types of crimes committed against children, Persad-Bissessar said.
“Sexual offences and robberies accounted for approximately 84 per cent of the crimes committed against children, at 42 per cent each. Children make up 25 per cent of our population,” she added. Urging that more men should get involved in the protection of children, Persad-Bissessar said:
“Perhaps women and mothers take the responsibility very seriously but where does the abuse come, really... where does it come from? From the women? From the mothers?...maybe, sometimes, but most of the cases we hear and most of the cases that are reported, it comes from the menfolk.” She said if society failed to find a way to get more men to safeguard children, then campaigns, such as Break the Silence and others, would be deemed useless.
When it is reported a child has suffered unimaginable abuse, Persad-Bissessar said, there was an immediate fury, resulting in the public calling for instant justice. “Breaking the silence will not only uncover the horror that some children must endure but could also prevent that by identifying the risks and acting appropriately. “To break the silence one thing that we must do is to surrender the urge that fuels national fury after news of child abuse comes out,” she added.
Persad-Bissessar said on the part of Government it was all too easy to say “we cannot be in every home and every community at all times” but initiatives were being implemented to tackle the scourge. Parents and adults must also share in the responsibility of shielding children from abuse, she said. Regarding infrastructure, Persad-Bissessar said work was expected to begin this month on the authority’s first assessment centre at the children’s hospital at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope.
Centres at Ste Madeleine and Chaguanas were expected to be fully operational by next September. “These centres will provide an expanded presence of the critical personnel who can receive, assess and activate emergency processes wherever a child is believed to be facing abuse of any kind. We can do more to ensure our children can live their lives as children without risk,” Persad-Bissessar added.
Salaries being sorted out, says De Coteau
Fielding questions from the media after the event, De Coteau said the delay in filling the vacancies centred on salary negotiations. “You could not get people of substance accepting those salaries. So there was this challenge. The issue is in front of the CPO (Chief Personnel Officer) right now and we are going to have some finality to it,” De Coteau said. He assured that T&T had “very qualified” people to take up the posts. Education, he urged, was necessary to make parents aware of the dangers of child abuse.