By Owen Gibson/ The Guardian
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Staff member hurt in fight at St Jude’s
A member of staff at the St Jude’s Home for Girls, Belmont, has been sent on injury leave after a fight at the home last week Monday. The incident occurred after several girls began fighting in their dorm and staff had to intervene. One staff member was attacked, choked and punched in the face. Confirming the incident yesterday, board member Bernard St Louis revealed three of the girls involved have since been sent to the St Ann’s Hospital for treatment. When contacted, staff at the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development promised a response by today.
St Jude’s Home for Girls is 125 years old and caters for girls between the ages of ten and 17 who are assigned to it by the court. Revealing that the home was plagued by a chronic staff shortage and overcrowding, St Louis said: “Some girls have serious mental problems and they are sent to St Jude’s and they don’t have qualified staff to handle these people.” Adding that these problems have existed for the past seven years, St Louis said the home was now under the auspices of the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development, having previously been shifted from the Ministry of Social Development to the Ministry of the People.
St Louis explained that as a result, there were a number of staff members who had been on contract for years, whilst the Statutory Services Commission was also responsible for allocating staff. He revealed there were no permanent workers who were cooks and no baker at the facility. Saying the ministry had been “a tower of strength in the last couple days,” St Louis praised child psychologist Dr Shaffie and ministry officials for their immediate assistance, as without it, “all hell would have broken loose in that organisation.” St Louis said while plans were underway for more staff to be assigned to the home, he hoped it would take place “in the not too distant future.”
Focusing on the efforts by the staff to ensure the girls lived in an atmosphere free from violence, St Louis acknowledged there were staffers who had gone more than the extra mile in doing their jobs. Saying there were “some girls who should not be there in the first place,” St Louis said life and work at the home continued as normal over the holiday weekend. In an E-mail to the T&T Guardian, a relative of one of the staff expressed shock over the incident as he called on the authorities to examine what he referred to as a “ticking time bomb” at the home. Referring to the dangerous nature of some of the girls sent there, the relative said many suffered from mental and addictive disorders but no support was being provided to existing staff to adequately address the variety of issues that often occurred.
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