UNC wants more help for children, vulnerable citizens

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Princes Town MP Barry Padarath – CHOLAI

Princes Town MP Barry Padarath says the Children’s Authority is under-budgeted and under-resourced.

He expressed his concerns on Sunday at the Opposition’s weekly media briefing.

He also addressed other matters alongside opposition senator David Nakhid.

Padarath said at the last Sitting of Parliament on May 10, the Government failed to address issues before the Standing Finance Committee.

One of those is the under-budgeting of the Children’s Authority under the Ministry of Gender and Child Affairs.

Padarath claimed that before the presentation of the 2022-2023 budget, the Children’s Authority reached out to him for help, citing that they had no other avenue. He is also the shadow minister of the Gender and Child Affairs Ministry.

He said the authority asked for over $100 million dollars. It received $28.1 million. On May 10, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced that the Children’s Authority will receive $62 million during the mid-year review.

Padarath told line minister Ayanna Webster-Roy, “You cannot be asking for $62 million dollars in a mid-year review when you passed a budget in October under-budgeting and under-resourcing the Children’s Authority.”

He told TT to ask themselves what is the outcome of under budgeting sectors? He also asked if the Children’s Authority does not have the necessary resources, how will they be protected?

Padarath added that the Children’s Authority is operating with over 200 employees when it needs 942.

He asked, “You (Webster-Roy) have been there for eight years and have not been able to fill the vacancies of over 600 positions?”

Padarath said he feels as though there is no sense of urgency to protect the children in the system.

He again addressed the line minister, “You can run, but you cannot hide. Should you fail to give us this information we will use the legal avenues which we have through the freedom of information and other legal avenues to find out the information.”

He claimed there were homes where teenage girls were pregnant. He said they will get the information on how many girls were impregnated, what became of the babies, teenage mothers and those responsible for the pregnancies.

Padarath also said he has seen the pushback for migrant children to be given access to public education. He said many migrants are able to work in the country, but asked what will become of their children if they are not allowed to go to school. One alternative, he said, could be crime.

He said if the Government was not forced into ensuring these children get an education, a generation of children will grow up thinking they have no alternative to provide for themselves other than through crime.

Padarath also said children who may have lost their parents because of criminal acts should be given financial aid. He added that the grants offered now cannot cover basic necessities at the supermarket and children are left begging.

Meanwhile, Nakhid said neither the Prime Minister nor his political party, the PNM, had anything in place to enable a sense of community. Referring to recent discovery of Gabriella Rafael’s body at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, last Monday, Nakhid said she had fallen through all the cracks – socially, financially and mentorship-wise – under the administration of the PNM.

When asked what more could be done to help people in the same situation, Nakhid said if the Government had not “shut down the normal social structures” there would be no gap.

He also said there needs to be security cameras placed at the savannah to ease the fear of having to leave once the sun sets.

With this in mind, asked how they feel about Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher rating her first 100 days as “excellent” on Saturday, Padarath asked what exactly is she celebrating.