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The Technical Working Team, reviewing the country’s progress towards the National Social Policy Goals, has identified seven key targets that Jamaica should work towards for the next 10 years, in order to improve economic and social conditions for all nationals.
The team, which was led by Jennifer Jones, Social Monitoring Specialist of the Jamaica Social Policy Evaluation Project’s (JASPEV), and comprised of policy and research experts from various ministries, government agencies, non-governmental organizations and independent consultants, identified human security; social integration; governance; secure and sustainable livelihoods; environment; education and skills; health and social well-being; as the National Social Policy Goals for 2015.
The report, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Tuesday (Dec. 6), following its review by the Social Development Committee of Parliament, recommended that as part of the effort to improve human security, the Police Public Complaints Authority should follow up cases sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for rulings against the police and make the cases available in its annual report for public awareness. They also called for the integration of police, court and penal statistics to track cases through the criminal justice system. The group felt that there should be diversionary programmes for juveniles and that funding for legal aid programmes should be increased.
On the matter of governance, it was recommended that public agencies engage in ongoing collaboration with stakeholders prior to and during major policies, programmes and project development.
Recommendations on the environment included proposals to channel additional resources to the relevant agencies to ensure continued improvement in the status of the environment including access to safe water.
Where education was concerned, it was suggested that the shift system be phased out and efforts made to ensure that all school boards were operational and all members chosen based on expertise, commitment and community links.
To improve social integration, the team pointed to the need for greater emphasis on the fulfillment of human rights, with the view that all policies, programmes and legislation should come from the perspective of human rights. They also called for more access to opportunities for employment and income generation for all, development of safe places for the youth and the elderly, that disabled should have more access to buildings and that no one should be denied service because of the inability to pay.
The recommendations on secure and sustainable livelihood entailed the need for collaboration between government and the private sector to develop programmes to meet the employment needs of the under 25 group and for research on female unemployment to better understand the problem and devise solutions.
To retain health and social well-being, the team pointed to the need to prevent violence, and delay the onset of sexual activity by building life skills, that government should provide leadership in mounting effective HIV/AIDS response and workforce interventions, and to strengthen the appropriate referral systems for women with complications during labour and delivery, to reduce maternal mortality. The group, however, pointed out that the achievement of many of the goals required state intervention and policy shifts.
Education Youth and Culture State Minister, Dr. Donald Rhodd, who tabled the report, said that work was being done in a number of areas identified by the report. He said the goals, which were long term and future-oriented, extended beyond political timelines and boundaries.
Furthermore, the Education State Minister said the goals were measurable and impacted social, economic and environmental policies.
He however noted that the “sustenance of the social fabric of the country required strategic policy direction from Cabinet as well as action on the part of ministries and social agents to make identified plans and policies a reality.”
In the meantime, to facilitate the dissemination of the information, the committee recommended that the possibilities for JASPEV to make an annual progress report to a committee of the whole house be explored, that JASPEV conduct separate meetings with different parliamentary groups in addition to developing a schedule of meetings for different constituencies to interface with civil society, business sector and the constituents.
Opposition Spokesperson on Health, Dr. Kenneth Baugh in his comments, said that while he supported the idea of establishing social goals, there was a need for balance by setting economic goals. He said the report had failed to identify how the goals would be achieved from the point of view of the costs involved.
He said the long-term goals identified by the report would have to be urgently transferred into shorter-term objectives. “It takes cash to care and for us to have social development, it takes good, effective economic policies that will grow and underwrite the costs of achieving these social goals,” he told the House.
He noted further, that the report pointed to the need for more wealth creation and employment opportunities. According to Dr. Baugh, poverty alleviation policies have failed to adequately address the issue of poverty eradication. He however endorsed the calls for more funds to be expended on the justice system.
JASPEV is project of the Cabinet office and its mandate is to create opportunities for citizens to have a say on the design, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes affecting their daily lives.
The project seeks to promote change in the culture of public institutions to make them more effective and responsive to customer’s needs and therefore complements the ongoing initiatives directed at public sector reform being led by the Cabinet Office.
Under the JASPEV project, an Annual Progress Report (APR) is used to track Jamaica’s progress towards achieving a number of social policy goals.