Tue | May 26, 2020

JFJ troubled by 'frequency and severity' of fires at child care facilities

Published:Saturday | August 17, 2019 | 10:52 AM

Human rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) says it is troubled by the “frequency and severity” of fires at child care facilities.

According to JFJ, last week’s fire at the Jamaica National Children’s Home in Papine, St Andrew, was the sixth at a child care institution in the last ten years.

No one was injured in the blaze, which destroyed a section of the facility.

However, JFJ noted that it occurred 18 months after a fire at Walkers Place of Safety resulted in the deaths of two children and “the disruption of the lives of another 34 Wards of the state”.

The lobby group says it welcomes the announcement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness that the government will be taking a closer look at state homes to ensure that Wards are being housed in safe conditions.

However, it urged the government to ensure that the review is “swift and thorough” and that the result is shared with the public in a timely manner.

“Jamaica’s state care arrangements have been reviewed many times before, but without a commitment to implementation and enforcement, reviews and audits achieve little on their own”, JFJ said in a statement today.

“We also urge them to make clear commitments to implement the recommendations arising from the review”.

The human rights group said it is cognisant of a “trend” where although an investigation is conducted and a report published, “there are still a number of unanswered questions” regarding some incidents.

It cited the fire at Walkers Place of Safety as an example.

“Despite the production of a report, we are still unclear as to the specific circumstances under which the two children died and whether the illegal electricity connection at the facility contributed to the blaze”, JFJ said.

“In the interest of transparency and public accountability, we urge the government to probe the specific circumstances surrounding the fire at the Jamaica National Children’s Home and publish a fulsome report”.

JFJ says the family of those affected by the fires, stakeholders in the child care sector and the public deserve a full report on what transpired and clear commitments from the government to implement measures that will prevent a recurrence.

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