– two more gender-specific homes for Berbice
Gaining employment at a government-run children’s home from this year will be a particularly thorough process. In fact, persons seeking employment at such institutions will be subjected to background checks, among other things.
This disclosure was recently made by former Minister of Social Protection, Ms. Volda Lawrence, who revealed that “we are also going to review the way in which we employ persons to deal with our children”. All individuals being employed by the Ministry will not escape passing through the Public Service Commission too.
This process was seen as imperative, since a number of persons were reportedly employed without proper scrutiny and were found to be wanting in some instances.
Currently there are over 600 children in residential care. There are about 20 facilities that are privately operated. However, there are three Government-run children’s home – the Sophia Care Centre, the Mahaica Children’s Home and the Drop-In Centre. The latter was razed by fire in July of last year which claimed the lives of two young residents.
According to Lawrence, whose ‘scrutinising of staffers’ plan is likely to be brought to fruition by Minister Amna Ally who recently assumed leadership of the Social Protection Ministry, considerable efforts are being directed towards improving residential care offered to children by the State.
Lawrence, at the start of this year, was redesignated as Minister of Public Health.
According to Lawrence, the Social Protection Ministry has plans to rebuild a centre for the children of the Drop-In Centre in the Sophia area. However, the facility that has been proposed will in fact be a modern centre, according to Lawrence.
“We want to build a modern centre not just a centre, and within that centre we are hoping to have some studio apartments.”
The purpose of the studio apartments, according to Lawrence, will be to temporarily accommodate the family members of children in the care of the State while the legal system decides their fate.
“So when we have to remove children, one of the parents not involved in the reason why they are being removed from the home (in the first place)… we can accommodate that family member there, and we can keep them there until the court decides on the programme best suited for the affected child,” Lawrence noted.
The Social Protection Ministry will also be looking to have in place two facilities dedicated for the residential care of boys and girls respectively. Already the Ministry has been given access to two buildings in Tain, Region Six, which were handed over to the Ministry by the Regional Administration. The facilities, once fully set up, will accommodate children who are involved in court matters in the Berbice area.
“So instead of them going to the lockups or remaining in the situation, they can find themselves in a comfortable space whereby we can help,” Minister Lawrence noted.
Commenting on the Ministry’s performance during the past year, the Minister noted that the fire that resulted in the deaths of the two young Drop-In Centre residents and a subsequent fatality at another children’s home in Berbice were daunting for the Ministry. This was coupled by the fact that the Ministry was unable to see some ventures brought to fruition.
“I am disappointed in us not being able to get off the ground the kind of programmes that we have at the Guyana Women’s Leadership Institute. In terms of legislation there are many we are aware of that we need to amend and we did not get them off the ground,” informed Minister Lawrence. She, however, assured that her Ministry is poised to continue where it left off and realise all goals that were not reached in 2016 within the first quarter of this year.
Minister Lawrence confidently asserted “if we weigh the downsides against what we have been able to achieve, we have achieved a lot. We were able to take all of our services to all of the regions and not just the regions but to the sub-regions, so there is not one administrative arm in the country that is not serviced by the Ministry of Social Protection and that is good.”
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