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Sector interests want non-political approach to childcare

Published:Sunday | November 15, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Sector interests are calling for the care and protection of children to be approached in a non-partisan, cross-sectoral manner.

Maureen Samms-Vaughan, professor of child health and child development, has pointed out that children's welfare determines the outcome of a country and "is best managed in a non-political partisan, cross-sectoral manner".

To this end, the childcare expert has made a call for whichever party forms the next government to establish a 'Commission for Children'.

This commission, she said, would "report on all aspects of young children's well-being and should be accountable to the nation's Parliament".


Falling through the cracks


Samms-Vaughan was supported in her call for a cross-sectoral approach by Dr Elizabeth Ward, of the Violence Prevention Alliance, who lamented the fact that more of Jamaica's children are falling through the cracks in the childcare system.

"Failure to intervene early is costly to both the child and the country. Agencies need to work together, not in isolation, increasing the effectiveness of their interventions. Families need to be strengthened to reduce the risks and build resilience in all our children. A clear road map has to be developed and involve all sectors of our society as we focus on protecting our children, improving their life chances so they can achieve their potential," she said.

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Country Representative Mark Connolly, in his charge to the next government, also noted that there needs to be improved coordination among child-focused agencies.


Treat with urgency


Connolly also called for the next government to "urgently put measures in place to treat the epidemic of violence against children, prioritise budgets, laws and policies to enhance children's safety - and pay urgent attention to enforcement and increase efforts to engage children and adolescents in policy dialogue and to ensure solutions meet their needs and rights."

Samms-Vaughan went on to detail aspects of childcare that need critical attention.

With regard to the material well-being of children, she said, "Many children have reasonable material well-being. However, the most vulnerable children, including victims of violence, poverty and those with disabilities, are not yet achieving the basic health, education and security rights of children."

She pointed out that access to education is good, but raised concerns about issues of quality education. On the matter of health care for children, she argued that advances are now needed in early identification and intervention for broader developmental and mental-health challenges facing families and children.

Based on Samms-Vaughan's analysis, the area of child safety proves to be the most problematic and needs urgent attention by the next government.

"From high rates of corporal punishment, emotional abuse and neglect to high rates of child murder (11th highest child homicide rate in the world), Jamaica ranks poorly in this category," she said.