Ayanna Webster-Roy, minister in charge of the Gender and Child Affairs Division, Office of the Prime Minister. – File photo: Lincoln Holder
The Gender and Child Affairs Division of the Office of the Prime Minister met with several stakeholders on Wednesday to discuss recent concerns regarding the visibility of children on the streets, particularly children from the national community and migrant groups.
In a release, the ministry said the meeting was held with key parties in the child protection ecosystem to focus on the responsibilities of responding state agencies to the issue of child endangerment.
One issue raised was the social challenge arising from members of the public who resort to illegally engaging persons on the street for cash or kind and particularly when children either accompany such individuals or are also made to engage in such activities.
The meeting discussed improving the collective response of enforcement agencies through a greater understanding of the response process, and explored opportunities on workable solutions to ensure that the rights of children are protected.
Gender and Child Affairs permanent secretary (acting) Vijay Gangapersad highlighted the need to ensure that children are protected and cared for and not exposed to actions that are likely to endanger them. He also emphasised the power of public engagement.
Gangapersad called for the commitment of continued collaboration to engage in further discussion for an improved integrated approach to child care and protection in early 2024, and attained consensus for further strengthening of the joint proactive response of state agencies.
The ministry said as the Christmas season continues and the upcoming Carnival season approaches, parents, guardians, and the public are reminded that child protection is everybody’s business.
It advised the public that it is an offence for any person placing himself in any street to beg or to cause, procure or encourage a child to do so. Such actions can lead to offenders being fined or imprisoned. The population is encouraged to report matters where children are likely to be in imminent danger.
The Children’s Authority and the police service said a child found to be begging, receiving alms or loitering for the purpose of begging or receiving alms is a major concern. They said any member of the public believing that a child is at risk and endangered in this way is strongly advised to bring this matter to their attention.
Members of the public are also strongly advised to exercise restraint and to desist from exposing children to danger and any forms of abuse. The Gender and Child Division, led by minister of state Ayanna Webster-Roy, together with key government ministries/agencies and other stakeholders responsible for child protection welcomes the public support in this regard.
Reports of child abuse and endangerment can be reported to the TTPS (999), the Children’s Authority of TT Hotline (996 or 800-2014) or the Enforcement Unit-Immigration Division ([email protected]).
The division wishes to reassure the population that it will continue to work with all relevant stakeholders and members of the public to ensure the safety and well-being of all children residing in TT through the implementation of sustainable workable solutions and joint efforts.