Human Services Ministry to launch three-year child safety programme

The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, along with the Child Protection Agency (CPA) will be launching an “Every Child Safe” training programme which will span over three years.

This programme will create a child safe, eco-friendly environment, which will teach participants to spot the signs of child abuse. These and other initiatives for child protection were spoken of as the ministry hosted an event on Friday, ‘Snack and Paint’ in observance of Child Protection Week.

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud at the ‘Snack and Paint’ event

The week is observed to bring awareness and understanding of child abuse and neglect in society, by imparting core principles that child protection is everyone’s business.

This year, under the theme “Together, let’s keep them safe” the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, through the CPA continues to emphasise that the safety of every child should not be an elusive goal.

Statistics released by the CPA, show that Region One has the highest number of reports of child abuse. There are 1,918 cases recorded countrywide.

A parent and child at the ‘Snack and Paint’ event

In accordance with the theme, the ministry launched a series of programmes to bring awareness, in its efforts to combat the scourge. These include community workshops, and radio and television awareness initiatives.  

Friday’s event held at the Everest Cricket Ground, catered for 25 children and a similar number of parents.  

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, Director of the Childcare and Protection Agency, Ann Greene and a child at the ‘Snack and Paint’ event

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud said the activity is the highlight of child protection week, as its aim was to create a bonding experience between the children and their parents.  

“It is exploring the relationship between those groups and we are also encouraging a bonding activity with the use of art which I feel is very expressive, creative and relaxing, but also, if you are to assess paintings and art it gives you an insight into how people think and an insight into their mental state.”

The family displays their art at the ‘Snack and Paint’ event

In keeping with this year’s theme, Minister Persaud noted that, “the emphasis is on togetherness and we are ensuring that everyone understands their role. It’s not only about the parents and guardians, but it’s everyone who would be around children, the entire country practically. Today we are giving the children and their parents, guardians and their wards the opportunity to bond, giving them both the opportunity to say what it means to them, when they speak about child safety.” 

Parents at the event shared their thoughts with DPI.Clarence Stanford, said it was a great bonding experience.

Child holding her painting at the ‘Snack and Paint’ event

“I feel what they are doing is good because sometimes you are very tired when you go home in the afternoons and you don’t get time to really spend with the child but the painting and talking with them this afternoon was so relaxing and so nice. I really enjoyed today, even the minister came today, she was at everybody’s table and talking to them and it makes you feel really good. If we work together, we can make every child safe, that should be our aim.”

Another parent, Ulex Smith expressed similar sentiments. “I believe that the initiative is really great because that is something we need to focus on in terms of children because there is a lot of children that are not safe. Many times, in our own neighbourhoods we are afraid to speak out and I think people need to start speaking out more and let people know this is happening and bring awareness to keeping children safe.”

Officers in every community were also dispatched to visit every home or host community outreaches to bring awareness of child abuse.

The ‘Snack and Paint’ event hosted at the Everest Cricket Ground

Residents were also encouraged to call the 914 hotline if they are aware of a child abuse incident. The relevant authorities will keep their identification along with those of victims anonymous.

Minister Persaud continues to reiterate the importance of children knowing the 914 hotline for reporting abuse. She also emphasised that children should utilise the hotline for serious reports only and not prank calls.

The ministry is partnering with UNICEF to execute the programme.

Additionally, the ministry will be launching a Gender Based Violence (GBV) app so that persons with disabilities can seek help. The app has a panic feature which allows the police or ministry officers to track the whereabouts of victims.