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32 workers added to Children’s Authority
The Children’s Authority has hired 32 new staff members and will be fully functioning by September, says Child Protection Task Force chair Diana Mahabir-Wyatt. Mahabir-Wyatt made the comment after handing over the task force’s second report to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s during a tea party celebrating International Women’s Day on Wednesday.
At the beginning of the year, the authority had a staff of nine and needed 97 positions filled to be fully staffed. “It is beginning to function,” Mahabir-Wyatt said. A staffing problem was one of the reasons given by the task force why the authority, established in 2010, had been unable to function since that time. Mahabir-Wyatt also said the task force had an agreement with National Security Minister Gary Griffith to set up a separate police unit, with specially trained officers, to deal with child abuse and family violence.
“We are also working on the concept of a children’s ombudsman and this will be important to the child protection structure,” she said. She said the Ministry of Justice had also discussed recommendations for a youth justice system. That would ensure that children were never treated as adults when they appeared in court for criminal behaviour, she added. “It is so that young people will not be thrown in jail but they will be dealt with specially. They will not be treated as adults because they are not adults,” Mahabir-Wyatt said.
She described cases where girls under 18-years-old were being thrown into adult prisons. “This is against the law and violates the rights of the child. They will not be treated the way they are treated now by the justice system,” she said. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she would comment on the report following discussion with Cabinet.