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Wednesday, May 24, 2006 


Roberts vows
Lara Pickford-Gordon Wednesday, May 24 2006

Government will protect children

Minister of Social Development Anthony Roberts yesterday admitted there were “gaps” in the social service delivery system but added that it was “inaccurate” for people to say the Government was not doing anything to protect the children.
“I want to assure you that we will continue to take appropriate action in protecting not only our children and vulnerable citizens but all citizens,” Roberts said at the Ministry of Social Development, Probation Services Diamond Jubilee celebration at Crowne Plaza.
In his address Roberts extended condolences to the family of four-year-old Emily Anamanthodo and said he eagerly awaited the report from Justice Monica Barnes who has been mandated to investigate the inability of the social services system to protect Emily and make recommendations “to rectify the system where necessary to prevent a recurrence.”
Speaking to the media after the award ceremony, Roberts was asked about his Ministry’s social response to the Anamanthodo case and if there were “gaps” in the response. He said the information he had was that it was a medical social worker with the Health Ministry who was involved with the case.
“The matter was never reported to our NFS division so that our social worker was involved in the issue but as a Government it is not a matter of passing blame of which social worker.
Obviously there are gaps in the system and that is what Madame Justice is asked to look into.” Roberts said the Government was dissatisfied with the delivery of social services in the country and this was why Cabinet agreed to a framework to deal with this. He said the plan for TT involves breaking the country into smaller areas in which social workers will “have a smaller number of families to work with.”
The social worker will be able to be more intimate with families to understand their problems to make recommendations. Roberts said more social workers and support services were necessary. “So a situation like Emily would have been identified and remedial action would have been taken.”
A consultant will be hired to advise on the decentralisation process. Roberts said Emily’s case was painful and traumatic but he was not going to debate who was responsible. He said the loss of life is unfortunate.
Commenting on the shortage of staff and resources (which was highlighted by probation officer III, Frances Turton), he said most departments in Social Development lacked resources. He said the merger of all the social services was taking place and a consultant will be assisting the Ministry with restructuring. He said the Probation Division would soon be addressed.
Work also is being done to beef up staff at the Mediation Division. Roberts announced that the Chinese government will give the Ministry a grant which will be used to upgrade all social welfare offices. Asked about the situation at the Cry Foundation home at Claxton Bay, Roberts said he received a report from the National Family Services (NFS) Division and based on what he saw his “initial response” was for the children to be removed to safer conditions. Roberts said prior to police intervention, the NFS had investigated the home after the CRY Foundation made a request for additional funding.
He said, “I think the Permanent Secretary would have asked them to update the report before taking the appropriate action but since the police went in, I have not had a further report from them.” Roberts said he was due to get the report at the end of this week. Last week police removed ten children from the CRY home after getting information that the children were being abused. They were made wards of the State until June 9. Medical examinations have found four of the children were sexually abused.

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