- The Government is undertaking several programmes aimed at improving the welfare of the nation’s children
- Correctional Services is ending the practise of “lockdowns” for children in juvenile correctional centres
The Government, through the Ministry of Youth and Culture, and the various child care and protection agencies, is undertaking a number of initiatives and programmes aimed at improving the welfare of the nation’s children.
Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, outlined a number of these actions at Wednesday’s (July 17) Jamaica House press briefing, as she responded to a petition and video posted online by human rights lobby group, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), criticising Government’s treatment of juveniles brought before the law.
Calling the petition by the JFJ “factually incorrect, intellectually dishonest and over-sensationalised,” Minister Hanna said it does not take into account the various activities by the administration towards the care and protection of children.
She noted, for example, that while the petition calls for the removal of the designation of ‘uncontrollable child’ from the legislation, as a reason to incarcerate a juvenile, the Government is already amending the law to do away with the practice.
The amendment also removes the option of judges remanding juveniles with behavioural problems to correctional facilities, Ms. Hanna pointed out. She noted also that the Child Care and Protection Act is being revised.
Speaking to a call in the petition for quality legal counsel to be provided for children in court, Minister Hanna emphasised that, “this is now being done by the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA)…the resources of the OCA are being increased to improve on its efficiency.”
The JFJ’s petition also called for rehabilitative centres to be created, instead of juvenile jails. Ms. Hanna outlined that the Ministry has, in fact, moved towards more rehabilitative facilities, including spearheading an art therapy programme dubbed, ‘Children for Life’, where children in state care will be provided with therapeutic outlets through music, dance, art, and other creatives.”
Also she said, “educational instruction for children in state care, including those in juvenile correctional centres, is being expanded and improved by the Ministry of Education”.
In the meantime, an advisory council of psychiatrists have been established, and have made their services available to children, particularly those in state care, with mental health challenges.
Minister Hanna also confirmed that proper training is being provided for staff in children’s homes, a matter also highlighted in the petition. On the demand by the JFJ for the recommendations of 2003 Keating Report to be fully implemented, she said the main author of that report has been engaged by the Ministry since 2013, and has, in fact, been leading the implementation of the outstanding recommendations.
The Youth Minister informed also, that the Correctional Services is ending the practise of “lockdowns” for children in juvenile correctional centres.
Additionally, she outlined that her Ministry and other Government and non-governmental partners are planning more parenting workshops to promote proper parenting, while an inter-ministerial working group has been established since September 2012, to spearhead actions to improve the lives of children across the island, particularly those in state care.
The Ministry has also begun work on an updated National Children’s Policy, and a children support task force of volunteers spanning a number of sectors, is supporting the work of the Government to improve the lives of children.
Minister Hanna informed also that the Government has taken the first set of actions to address the issues stemming from the report into the Armadale fire of 2009.
“These positive actions by the Government represent the actions of a Government that takes seriously, its responsibility for the care and protection of the nation’s children,” she stated.