Sat | Jan 19, 2019

PM requests review of safety policies at children’s homes, opposition leader sets up fund

Published:Wednesday | January 17, 2018 | 12:00 AM
A policewoman walks by the burnt-out remains of Walker's Place of Safety on Lyndhurst Crescent in St Andrew yesterday. Two female wards of the State perished in the blaze.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness comforts wards of Walker's Place of Safety in St Andrew yesterday. The home was destroyed by fire, killing two girls.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has asked the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to conduct a review of safety policies and procedures for children's homes and places of safety.

This comes after a fire destroyed Walker's Place of Safety on Lyndhurst Crescent in St Andrew late Monday night, claiming the lives of two female wards.

Holness, along with his wife, Juliet, visited the facility yesterday afternoon, where he expressed deep sadness at the loss of life and displacement of the other 34 wards and staffers.

"When incidents like these happen, it triggers an administrative response, which is to review what actually happened," Holness said.

"From whether or not the building was appropriate, whether or not we need to spend more resources to build better facilities, whether or not there was negligence, and just to make sure that the places of safety are actually safe places. That is the duty of the Government, and I've asked Minister (Floyd) Green and Minister (Ruel) Reid to undertake that review."

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips also visited the fire-gutted institution, where he described the incident as "truly tragic".

Phillips, who is the member of parliament for East Central St Andrew where the facility is located, has pledged to contribute $250,000 to kick-start a fund for the rebuilding of the place of safety and the resettlement of the children.

"Most of all is the concern for the children, many of whom don't have family care and have been, by virtue of a court order or otherwise, placed in the care of this home. For many, it's the only family they know, it's the only security they know, so it's beyond a constituency problem," Phillips told The Gleaner.

During his visit to the facility, Prime Minister Holness hailed Phillips' move to establish a fund as an excellent one, stating that he will be in touch to see how best he can contribute in the spirit of serving the nation's children.

"And I would encourage all Jamaicans to contribute," added Holness.