A well-known and often cited quotation states that the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members. The Ministry of Social Development and Gender Affairs is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that as our small twin-island state continues to develop economically that no one is left behind. It is our task to create a conducive environment for every citizen to be not only beneficiaries of our economic growth but also meaningful contributors using talents and skills.
The Ministry’s work is grounded in the belief that the family is the cornerstone of the community, and hence we remain committed to building safer and stronger families. Recognizing the myriad of challenges that threaten families, we will continue to bolster our support services through continuous training for staff and increased collaboration with other service providers and stakeholders. Through improved data collection, monitoring and evaluation exercises by our Projects, Policy and Planning Unit, we will ensure that our social protection programmes and policies are sustainable, relevant and encourages independence and self-sufficiency.
The Ministry in 2021 will continue to work closely with families through the continued use of the Prevention and Intervention Family System Model (PISFM) or Family Matters Programme. This programme successfully implemented over the last four years by Family Counsellors assigned to the Counselling Department has resulted in a over 70% reduction of risk factors in juveniles. In 2021 the staff in the Counselling Department will be given the opportunity to enhance their skillset further and reach additional families through the use of Multi-Systematic Therapy (MST), an intensive home family counselling programme that connects parents and tools and resources needed to improve communication and strengthen the family unit. The care and protection of children will remain a primary focus of the Ministry, particularly as statistics reveal the county is experiencing increasing numbers of cases of child abuse and neglect. Well in excess of two hundred and forty (240) cases is recorded each year. Some research suggests that for each reported case, at least three go unreported. Far removed from a mere spanking which results in physical scars, there are reported cases of children being burnt, forced out of the home and too many children of tender years are sexually molested in unimaginable ways.
The Probation and Child Welfare Board through the assistance of UNICEF in 2019 developed a comprehensive Case Management System that facilitates easier reporting, improved tracking of cases, more efficient management, and better outcomes. Building on this success, UNICEF has also in 2020 provided funding for hardware for officers to utilize the Case Management System and the purchase of anatomically correct dolls to be used by the officers in interviews of children who have been sexually molested.
Through the USAID funded OECS Juvenile Justice Reform Project, the staff in PCPS have been provided substantial training. Extensive work has also been done in the area of diversion, rehabilitation and reintegration. It is anticipated that the National Diversion, Rehabilitation and Reintegration Strategy will establish a more structured approach across all stakeholders in facilitating the full implementation of the Child Justice Act more specifically in ensuring that as many juveniles as possible are diverted away from the judicial system. To date, several programmes, including the Explorers Club, have already been identified as diversion programmes for young person’s which will allow them a second chance and opportunities to achieve their full potential in a supportive environment.
It was anticipated that in 2020, the Ministry through financial and technical assistance from UNICEF, would undertake the review of the implementation of the Social Protection Strategy and Action Plan (2013-2017) and work towards the development of a new strategy which will serve as the road map for social protection over the next five years. While COVID has delayed the start of this important initiative, a consultant has already been retained, and work has commenced. It is anticipated that the new policy will allow for improved efficiency and effectiveness in the targeting and execution of social protection programmes, reduce ambiguity and increase the Ministry’s capability to better serve clients in a more holistic and effective manner. The review exercise will also allow the ministry to evaluate and improve upon our responsiveness in emergency situations such as hurricanes and pandemics.
The Ministry has also been able to secure additional funding from UNESCO to complete The National Gender Equality Policy, and Action Plan which will provide the institutional framework to assist the government in facilitating gender equality and empowerment in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goals and other international instruments to which the state is a signatory will also be finalized. It is anticipated that in 2021 the Ministry will finalize both the Special Needs and Ageing Policies which will provide a framework for the full inclusion of older persons and persons with disabilities in all aspects of our society.
As relatively new signatories to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities the Ministry will endeavour to work more closely with the St. Kitts Nevis Association of Persons with Disabilities on The adoption of a Community Based Rehabilitation approach which has the potential to enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families; meet their basic needs, and ensure their inclusion and participation Compliance of the Government in developing and institutionalizing interventions aligned with obligations outlined in the Convention
Janelle Lewis -Tafari (Mrs.)