Webster-Roy tells children: We are fighting for you

MINISTER in the Office of the Prime Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy rejected claims from Princes Town MP Barry Padarath that Government had failed to protect children and was trying to cover up child abuse in Trinidad and Tobago.

In her contribution to debate on a private motion filed by Padarath in the House of Representatives, Webster-Roy had a message for TT’s children. “We have heard you. We will continue to fight for you.”

Webster-Roy declared, “I would not cover up anything.” She said the same obtains for other government members. It was wrong for anyone to accuse the PNM of not caring about children or doing all it could to protect them from abuse.

“The protection of children as well as the well-being of the people of TT, has always been the heart of our work as government.” The PNM, she continued, has never wavered in its commitment in putting people first.

Since 2015, Government has committed to ensuring that all children are healthy, happy and their rights are protected to ensure their holistic development. Child abuse is not a problem unique to TT.

Webster-Roy quoted from a recent World Health Organization (WHO) study which estimated that one billion children between the ages of two and 17 were abused last year.

This, she continued, underscores the point that governments alone cannot solve the problem of child abuse. “We need all hands on deck.”

Over the last three years, Government spent sums of $20 million and $130 million to boost resources at private children’s homes and state children’s homes, to provide better care for children in these facilities.

Webster-Roy said the report of the committee chaired by retired Justice of Appeal Judith Jones was further evidence that Government was committed towards the protection of children. The Jones report was laid in the House on April 29.

The report had disturbing findings with respect to reports of abuse and absconding at the traditional government-funded children’s homes and the Valsayn Child Support Centre. These included staff promoting a culture that encourages abuse among residents, security guards found guilty of abusing residents and a lack of proper supervision of residents, leading to situations of physical abuse.

Webster-Roy assured MPs there is rigorous screening of all people who seek employment at children’s homes. “We don’t pick up people on the side of the road.” While some people may have a deep seated intention to harm children, she said best efforts are made “to root out the bad seeds and keep the good ones.” She rejected Padarath’s claims that the PNM never developed policies to care for children. Webster-Roy reminded MPs that the PNM passed legislation in to end child marriages in TT. She also disclosed that a facility will soon be established to care for young migrant girls who end up in TT and need help.

Webster-Roy declared this was not a political issue. “We must hold each other accountable.We all as citizens have an individual and collective part to play in ending these horrific crimes.”

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