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Speak Out

Minister pushing for new law to mandate reporting child abuse

Social care providers and other professionals will soon be prosecuted for not reporting known or suspected cases of child abuse.

Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett told Barbados TODAY this afternoon he wants to have new legislation in place by February, mandating a wide variety of individuals and professionals to report all incidents of child abuse.

Although the proposed penalties have not yet been finalised, legal consultant and UNICEF Child Champion Faith Marshall-Harris, who is preparing the Mandatory Reporting Protocol for the Government, informed this newspaper that jail time was not being ruled out.

“I have not recommended any penalties as yet, but there will be some form of sanctions for those breaching the

legislation. There will be penalties,” Marshall-Harris, Faith Marshall-Harris, who is now the UNICEF’s Children’s

a retired juvenile court magistrate said. Both she and Blackett were speaking to Barbados

TODAY, immediately following the launch of the Break The Silence, End Child Abuse Campaign at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

The former magistrate said that all those who come in contact with children daily as care givers, would be impacted by the protocol.

Among those listed are teachers, doctors, nurses, Sunday school teachers and other church leaders, judicial officers, including lawyers, psychologists, psychiatrists and dentists.

Marshall-Harris, noted though that police officers would work along with the Child Care Board as the legal and civil enforcers of the legislation.

Earlier, when he addressed the hundreds of school children and their teachers at today’s launch, Minister Blackett informed them that the Government must ensure there was adequate legislation and resources in place to assist children and their families who were victims of abuse.

He said the impending protocol was one of the steps the Government was taking to keep the nation’s children safe.

“Last year we embarked on a review of all legislation that impacts on children by engaging a legal consultant, Mrs

Champion. She has also worked with the Child Care Board on the Mandatory Reporting Protocol which will set out the categories of persons or professions who should report incidents of abuse,” Blackett added.

“It will outline the process for reporting,” he pointed out.

The Minister of Social Care advised Barbadians to take the Break The Silence campaign seriously, since child abuse was a serious matter.

“During the period April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013, the Child Care Board received 780 reports of alleged child abuse and neglect that impacted the lives of 1,087 children. Of these, 327 were cases of neglect which impacted on 548 children,” he revealed.

However, the Cabinet minister suggested that these figures did not represent all of the children who have suffered abuse and neglect; rather it is thought to be the tip of the iceberg.

Blackett believes that keeping children safe from abuse and neglect must be the primary goal of every family, community and the nation as a whole.

He warned that child abuse and neglect was a crime against children.

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