Govt to revise Domestic Violence, Sexual Offences Acts—Lawrence
Social Protection Minister, Volda Lawrence is keen to place the spotlight this year on developing the family
structure within the Guyanese society. She also wants to revise some key laws.
Lawrence said that this is all part of the Ministry of Social Protection’s objectives for 2016. These are framed within the parameters of equitable distribution for the benefits for all Guyanese as extracted from the Sustainable Development Goals.
Lawrence said that to help fulfill this vision, there has been a 42 percent hike in the Ministry’s budget for 2016, taking it to $13 billion.
The Minister said that this will help to not only improve the services offered, but also to expand its reach to vulnerable and far flung communities.
Lawrence said that the family is the fulcrum upon which the Ministry of Social Protection and, by extension, the government, has envisioned this and future budgets.
She said, “We acknowledge that the Guyanese family is in dire straits, and so this year we will intensify our efforts to target the restoration of the family as a foundation institution.
Broken, dysfunctional families produce broken youths, who often cannot find employment and sometimes engage in delinquent behaviour.”
She added, “Through the Probation Department, the Ministry is working with several partners on the option of alternative sentencing for first-time offenders so that we can rehabilitate, instead of condemn youths to penal institutions. With the positive economic outlook and increased investment in education, I am sure we will provide gainful employment for our youths.”
Lawrence said that her Ministry will provide training schemes to help fathers, mothers and caregivers improve their parenting skills.
The Parliamentarian said that much of the Ministry’s focus in 2016 will be on the welfare and protection of children.
She said, “Our commitment to children is also shown in the increase in budgetary allocation from $253 million in 2015 to $471 million this year. This is money intended to help us target child abuse, especially sexual abuse, introduce a Teen Prevention Pregnancy (TPP) programme; launch a campaign for child protection and implement the Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme that will include licensing of Day Care facilities.”
Lawrence explained that it will also include infrastructure works at the various buildings which house operations of the key agency.
She said that emphasis will be placed on deinstitutionalizing the 700-plus children in formal care. The Minister said that every child in Guyana belongs to a family, whether biological, foster or adoptive, and so her Ministry will work to find families for these children.
She said, too, that the Ministry will also introduce greater financial support for families, including micro credit for both male and female single parents.
While cash transfers are helpful to persons in dire circumstances, Lawrence said that there is a need to move holistically to help families seeking public assistance by offering skills training available through other Government agencies.
Lawrence said that the Women of Worth (WOW) programme will now be known as the POWER programme. She said that the acronym POWER means: People of Worth Entrepreneurial Resources.
The Social Protection Minister said that while in the past, WOW focused on women, POWER will provide loans to both males and females.
“But it would be remiss of me, to avoid raising a matter of concern. It relates to the specter of child abuse which is now stalking our society. One of the major programmes targeting this scourge in 2016 is the launching of a campaign using all the media outlets to raise the level of awareness of the Guyanese population to the plight of children who suffer abuse.”
The politician said that this is in an effort to propel them into action to root out the scourge of child abuse in the society. She said that she wants her Ministry to cut a covenant with all communities in Guyana to be more protective of our children. Through this covenant, Lawrence said that the public will be educated on the destruction to the health and wellbeing of a child who is a victim of abuse and neglect.
The Minister said that information will also be given on how to spot child abuse and neglect and actions that the public could take to help a child, such as reporting to the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) or by calling the hotline.
She said that the idea behind this movement is to spur the nation into action. She emphasized that child abuse must be prevented at all costs.
The Social Protection Minister said that the 2016 budget charts a course to increase the country’s wealth so that the Government can give people a good life, a life where they are able to fight poverty and not be dependent on charitable handouts.
Lawrence said that this will only become possible when the administration is able to provide jobs and train people to qualify for these jobs so that the citizenry can escape the vicious cycle of poverty.
She said that beating the pinch of poverty was what influenced the rise in the threshold giving families an additional $55,000 in annual income.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL OFFENCES
The Minister said that plans are also in the pipeline to have revisions to the Domestic Violence and Sexual Offence Acts. She said that in the 2016 budget, her Ministry has allocated $40 million to construct a domestic violence centre for victims.
“We also have financial allocations to improve our response to human trafficking; finalize the national Gender Policy; delink the Probation and Social Services aspect from Social Security; create a Suicide Prevention Manual; and partner with several NGOs and the University of Guyana to train persons in vocational skills and business management; and conduct job placement for single mothers.”
Lawrence said that the Ministry and the University of Guyana will partner to offer social workers the opportunity to do a Masters Degree in this field to lift the standards of the profession.
The Parliamentarian said that the programme will be designed to reflect the Guyanese context and needs, since the Ministry, a major employer of social workers, is concerned about the absence of licensing, and mechanisms to safeguard ethical standards and monitor and evaluate professional competencies.
The Minister said that it is for this reason her Ministry intends to start an annual conference on Professional Practice for Ethical Standards in July. She explained that this will set the tone for what is required in local social work practice.
Lawrence said that the Ministry eagerly anticipates the establishment of a Regulatory Board that will hold all social work practitioners accountable.
She said, “While some of our efforts are hamstrung by staff shortage, we will this year, keep our commitment to Guyanese and intensify our focus on the good life we have promised.”
Lawrence said that numerous initiatives to be undertaken will lend to a development agenda that addresses current and emerging challenges; restore the dignity of vulnerable groups; offer protection to every Guyanese, and significantly reduce major social ills.
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