Padarath: Where’s work plan of task force on child abuse?

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Princes Town MP Barry Padarath. –

WHERE is the work plan of the task force set up to examine the report by a team led by retired Justice Judith Jones that unearthed serious abuse at the nation’s children’s homes? Princes Town MP Barry Padarath asked this in a statement on Friday.

A damning report into the sexual, physical and mental abuse of youngsters in children’s homes nationwide by certain staff and security guards was laid in the House of Representatives on April 29.

Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy promised a task force to develop a plan to enact recommendations from the Jones report to reduce such abuse.

Padarath called on Webster-Roy to say if she had received a work plan from the task force, which was set up six weeks ago, the period he said the minister had given the task force to produce a plan on how to give effect to the Jones report. The task force first met on May 4.

The MP said several recommendations in the Jones report were “low-hanging fruit” and he did not understand the Government’s delay in effecting these. They included setting up a commissioner’s office for children affairs, proclaiming legislation to license community residences and children’s homes, and establishing a national commission on children.

Padarath asked why the work of the task force was moving at a snail’s pace even as the police service said alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse were still at the homes.

He said that up to last Monday’s House sitting, Webster-Roy could not say how many children have been removed from these homes to protect them or how many alleged abusers were removed, when questioned by the Opposition, but was “completely in the dark” on critical matters affecting the Children’s Authority, .

Padarath asked if a separate task force would be set up to actually give effect to the work plan, and, if so, who would head head it, and under what terms of reference.

He said the pace at which the Government was moving to treat with this matter was “a serious cause for concern since there appears to be no urgency in getting help to the children who are being abused.”

Newsday called Webster-Roy and sent her a message by WhatsApp but got no response.

Meanwhile RC Archbishop Jason Gordon recently named a four-person team under former BHP Billliton (TT) head Vincent Pereira to examine and overhaul care in RC children’s homes.