The capital allocation for the rehabilitation of children’s homes and places of safety for 2013/14 has increased 900 per cent, moving from just over $6 million last year to $60.3 million.
This was announced by Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, at the official launch of Child Month 2013 on Wednesday, April 17, at the GraceKennedy Limited offices, in downtown Kingston.
Activities will begin in May and will be carried out under the theme: ‘Children’s Care and Protection: A Fi Wi Mission’.
The Minister pointed out that some of the funds will also be used to refurbish places of safety damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October last year.
Miss Hanna reiterated the Government’s commitment to safeguarding the rights of the nation’s children, by bolstering policies and programmes aimed at protecting them.
“In the budgetary allocations for children for 2013-2014, it is clear we consider the development, care and protection of children as important priorities as a Government,” she said.
The Minister said that despite the global economic climate, the recurrent budget of the Child Development Agency (CDA) has seen an increase.
Ms. Hanna added that increases have also been allocated in grants to private children’s homes, government and private places of safety, as well as for maintenance grants to foster parents.
She said more resources will be allocated to the Ananda Alert programme, as part of efforts to ensure that the required staffing and management systems are in place to support the programme.
“Cabinet’s approval of the transfer of the programme to my Ministry since January of this year has been accompanied by Cabinet’s approval for the funding of new positions for an Alert and Child Recovery Co-ordinator; an Administrator for the programme; a Statistical Officer; and a Public Education Officer,” she said.
The Ananda Alert is a nationwide system designed to ensure a speedy and safe recovery of a child in the unfortunate event that he/she is missing or abducted.
The Minister noted that there are areas of children care, protection and development in Jamaica where more resources and broad-based action are needed to create the levels of improvement required.
“The Possibility Programme to assist Street Children, for example, has seen a near 47 per cent increase in budgetary allocation this year, but significantly more resources are needed to ensure the required sustained impact in this area,” she said.
Miss Hanna said the existing programme seeks to havethe children enrolled in projects for skills training, assist in their reintegration with their families and/or schools and where possible, operate a Care Centre, a Skills and Employment Centre and fund re-socialisation camps and a hostel.
She informed that $75 million has been allocated through the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) to construct facilities, so that children who come in contact with Police can be accommodated separately from adults at five police stations across Jamaica.
“This is a practical and pragmatic start to addressing a long standing deep seated problem, in terms of providing proper rehabilitation and accommodation services to children who come in contact with the justice system,” she said.
Ms. Hanna said that while this area remains a deficiency in Jamaica’s adherence to international protocols and agreements on child care, “our reports on child care have pointed to initiatives that are underway to improve the juvenile justice system in Jamaica.”
“These include the National Plan of Action for Child Justice, the introduction of Children’s Court, the upgrading of facilities and behaviour modification programmes,” she noted.
The Minister said the Government also has a National Plan of Action for an Integrated Response to Children and Violence for 2012–2017.
“This is a five-year plan designed to foster an environment that protects children from violence, abuse and exploitation, promotes programmes for alternatives to incarceration and institutionalisation of children, community and family based rehabilitation, rather than putting them in State care and juvenile facilities,” she said.
Ms. Hanna pointed out that approximately 900 children have been kept out of State care as a result of the Government’s integrated programme.
The Minister emphasised that while there is much more work to be done, a collaborative approach is needed by all stakeholders to ensure that priority attention is given to children.
Child Month, which seeks to promote the welfare of children, was first celebrated in May, 1953.
Some of the activities for this year include: a National Church Service on Sunday, May 5, at the Faith Chapel, 1 Renfield Avenue, Kingston; National Children’s Action Day on May 10; National Children Day, scheduled for May 17; and the awards ceremony for the poster and essay competitions on June 5.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter