Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 17th 2014 Contents A5
Friday, January 17, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Children are abusing children in community
homes with staff looking the other way, head
of the Child Protection Task Force Diana
Mahabir-Wyatt said yesterday, shortly after
Cabinet agreed to implement a recommenda-
tion for stricter monitoring of these institutions.
She said: "We need to take a look at what s
going on in children s homes. They are not being
"Very often children abuse children and staff
can look the other way...We all know what s
going on," Mahabir-Wyatt said, promising more
reports will be coming from her task force.
She spoke to the media after yesterday s post-
Cabinet conference where Prime Minister Kamla
Persad-Bissessar announced that the Government
has decided to implement recommendations for
three areas deemed priorities by the task force.
One of the recommendations was the licensing
of children s homes.
"I think we are in a crisis," Mahabir-Wyatt
said, summing up the attacks on children.
"It s absolutely an emergency, what s hap-
pening to our children. It s why we are working
as hard as we are and will not stop until it s
Persad-Bissessar was officially presented with
the first report of the task force at the post-
Cabinet media conference at the Prime Minister s
Office in St Clair by Mahabir-Wyatt and mem-
The Government was informally given the
report last Christmas Eve, just weeks after the
task force was set up, following the murder of
six-year old Keyana Cumberbatch.
Mahabir-Wyatt, in an earlier interview, had
said children homes had no consistent standards.
Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Develop-
ment Clifton de Coteau, a member of the task
force, said yesterday there are about 54 children s
homes in T&T and very few are "licensed" and
received government subventions.
• St Mary s Community Residence
• St Jude s School for Girls
• St Dominic s Children s Home
Asked if they are, therefore, licensed, de Coteau
said: "They have contracts. The contracts are
As for the rest, the minister said "they just
exist." These are homes often set up through
the goodwill of operators and where the police
sometimes just send abused children, he said.
They operate on handouts from corporate spon-
sors and individuals.
Persad-Bissessar, in announcing Cabinet s
decision to implement the priority recommen-
dations, said: "The first has to do with the estab-
lishment of assessment centres, the second with
the staffing of the Children s Authority and the
third the licensing of community residences."
She said Mahabir-Wyatt asked that the leg-
islative aspects of child protection be put on the
back-burner for now until these three areas were
On the licensing of children s homes, the PM
said she was told the authority developed draft
standards in collaboration with key stakeholders
to provide the primary tool for licensing and
monitoring of community residences.
The drafting of the standards was followed
by the conduct of a gap analysis exercise which
aimed to identify the gaps between what present-
ly existed in the residences and what was required
to bring them up to standards, she said. Foster
care regulations will also be based on these stan-
dards, she added.
On the question of staffing for the Children s
Authority, she said the ministry, in July 2012,
submitted a compensation package to the Chief
Personnel Officer which was approved yesterday
Only 19 of the 97 positions in the authority
were filled because of the issue of compensation,
A ministerial committee with the responsibility
for remuneration arrangements met on Wednes-
day and approved compensation for staff at the
Children s Authority.
The PM said the committee was guided by
terms existing for comparable positions in the
public sector which require similar qualifications
"I would ask you to go forth and recruit," she
said to the task force members present.
On assessment centres, where abused children
will be assessed before they are sent to insti-
tutions, Persad-Bissessar said the first will be
opened at the Children s Hospital at the Eric
Williams Medical Sciences Complex.
A memorandum of understanding was signed
with the North Central Regional Health Authority
early in the new year and a contract awarded
for the commencement of work this month.
The centre is expected to be fully functional
by June. The ministry will construct two other
centres, in South and Central.
Several other places will be refurbished
throughout T&T to accommodate, among other
things, male safe homes and female safe homes.
Persad-Bissessar said she has "tasked the
minister to expedite as fast as he could."
She also asked the task force to look at the
offences in the Children s Act to see if they could
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is presented with a copy of the first report of the Child Protection Task Force from head of the unit Diana
Mahabir-Wyatt during yesterday's post-Cabinet news briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair. Looking on are deputy chairman of the
task force, Stephanie Daly, Gender, Youth and Child Development Minister Clifton De Coteau and Minister of State Raziah Ahmed, right.
PHOTO: MARY ANN AUGUSTE
PM gets first task force report...
must be licensed
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bisses-
sar yesterday rejected a call by president
general of the Oilfields Workers Trade
Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget for an
urgent meeting to discuss the recent
Petrotrin oil spills at La Brea and other
districts in south Trinidad.
Roget requested the meeting via a
hand-delivered letter to Persad-Bissessar s
office on Wednesday.
Speaking at yesterday s post-Cabinet
news conference at the Office of the Prime
Minister in St Clair, Persad-Bissessar said
such a meeting "may not be appropriate
at this time."
She said her reasons for refusing to
meet with the union urgently were
because the oil spills were still being
investigated and an independent task
force was being set up with specific objec-
The Prime Minister suggested that "it
would be inappropriate for her to make
pronouncements without the investigation
being complete, and without a proper
assessment being done on what took
She added that the Government was
committed to do all it could to assist res-
idents and to ensure the beaches affected
were cleaned as soon as possible.
She announced the Cabinet s approval
for the setting up of a National Environ-
mental Assessment Task Force. Persad-
Bissessar, however, was unable to name
the members of the commission as they
were still being selected.
The terms of reference of the task force
• to oversee all activities that are nec-
essary to address the environmental
impacts of the oil spills affecting the
coastline of the south-western peninsula
• provide guidance to the Environ-
mental Management Authority, the lead
agency in the clean-up efforts
• confirm all sources of the oil spills
into the Gulf of Paria
• co-ordinate and monitor the work
carried out by government departments
and other public bodies
• assess the environmental impact of
the Petrotrin oil spills and the subsequent
• establish shoreline clean-up and
• undertake surveys of damaged
resources at sites to determine damage
• identify final prioritisation, decide
which detail studies to undertake and
document assessment process, reasons
for decisions and priorities and strategies
• document the fate and behaviour of
the oil and the effectiveness of the clean-
up• initiate and co-ordinate studies to
ensure that a comprehensive set of mon-
itoring data on environmental distribution
and impacts be obtained
• determine the overall impact of the
incidents on the environmental resources
of the area affected.
on oil spills
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