A Child Safeguarding Unit is to be fast tracked for Montserrat. This was announced last week by Her Excellency the Governor Elizabeth Carriere.
The governor told the press that the need for the unit forms part of the recommendations in the Lucy Faithfull Report on Child Safeguarding on island which was released last March.
In the report, “The Reviewers considered that the social services department and the members of the Royal Montserrat Police Force who had the most active dealings with safeguarding were dedicated and competent, but were handicapped by an absence of legal, institutional and operational powers. The island currently lacks coherent legislation that might underpin efforts to safeguard children, and the social services department are forced to use outdated and clumsy statutes as a means of legitimising their role.”
Discover has learned that the current thinking is that a separate unit will show that the government is taking abuse of children seriously. The unit will need to hire in staff as local capacity is limited. The Social Services Department is currently understaffed and only has one qualified social services professional on staff. The need for qualified social service officers has been more acute with an increase in cases involving children over the past few years.
According to the report “Children on Montserrat were considered to be particularly vulnerable as a result of the number of single parent and disrupted families, the separation of children from their parents as a result of economic migration, and the breakdown of traditional village structures, where a form of collective and concerned parenting had been replaced by a degree of indifference and a form of bystander effect, where individuals assume that someone else will take action, resulting in a collective failure to act at all.
“The Reviewers received consistent suggestions that there were elements in Montserrat society who were responsible for the sexual abuse and exploitation of girls, and that those individuals managed to subvert the role of the authorities by making payments to the families of their victims in order to forestall a criminal complaint. The Reviewers felt that a strategy for addressing this matter could be formulated and implemented on island, and that there was sufficient will and capacity in the safeguarding institutions and the wider government to achieve it.”
A new Child Protection Act is expected to make it to the Legislature before the new budget year in April.