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A Special Report of the Office of the Children’s Advocate has said there is a need to commission a national incidence and prevalence study on children and violence, so as to better understand the nature and scope of the problem.
The report, which has made several recommendations, was tabled in the House of Representatives on November 30. It was put together between May and November this year.
Other suggestions in the report include: an evaluation of the country’s child protection and welfare response systems, with a view to reducing caseloads; improving working conditions of the island’s Children’s, Probation and Correctional Officers; strengthening the family support unit of the Child Development Agency; and reviewing the school health policy and reporting systems.
The document also recommends that the Family Court should be strengthened to enable it to better offer support through family group counselling; and that there
should be mandatory minimum attendance to parenting education and skills development sessions.
“This should be a condition for sanctions and should be linked to the Family Support Unit of the Child Development Agency, so poor and at risk parents can have better access to welfare and development support,” the report says.
According to the report, there were 6,448 child labourers who were typically 13 years of age and had reportedly been working before they reached the age of 11. Boys outnumbered girls by a ratio of 70:30 and 70 per cent were street children.
“In spite of a National Plan of Action on Child Labour that was formulated in 2004, any mechanisms for monitoring and enforcement remain in gestation,” the report states.
In addition, data from Hear the Children’s Cry show that between January and December 2008, some 960 children were reported missing.
“By the end of the following year, the number had increased to 1,859. Of a total of 2,819 children in this two year period, some 1,127 returned home, 12 were murdered and 720 are reportedly still missing. This inexorably raises the spectre of child trafficking and sexual exploitation, which are among the worst forms of violence against children,” the report states.