Prime Minister Mia Mottley is “impatient” for urgent reform at the Government Industrial School (GIS).
She broke her silence on developments at the juvenile correctional institution which is now the subject of a probe, following difficulties in the girls’ section, while speaking on Down To Brasstacks on Wednesday.
“I fundamentally believe there needs to be reform, and the reality is that trying to do reform in the middle of a pandemic cannot and has not been the easiest thing. The reality is that it has taken much longer than I am happy with and the reality is that we have asked for a departmental inquiry to be done within a four to six-week period so that there is independent evidence,” Mottley said before departing for Guyana to attend the inaugural Regional Agriculture Investment Forum and Expo.
Mere weeks after revealing two previous investigations at the Barrow’s, St Lucy section had cleared staff of any wrongdoing following a series of complaints including allegations of abuse, Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams announced that another probe would be conducted.
The investigation to be led by a three -member panel was prompted by the escape of two girls who subsequently turned themselves in.
Mottley, who insisted that the country has to improve the way it deals with young people, noted that changes at the GIS are also dependent on critical legislation yet to be completed.
“We have also been waiting for the drafting, the completed drafts of the Child Protection legislation and the Child Justice Act and members of Cabinet will tell you I am impatient for these to be done. But at the same time, I am conscious that people have not had it easy and have not been walking in a straight line for the last year or 18 months.
“We have also been working with UNICEF; they are going to provide the draft legislation so that we can get it to Parliament. Legislation provides the framework for institutions, institutions then allow us to hire the skills set that we need to provide the emotional support and the transformational opportunities for those young kids,” the Prime Minister said.
Mottley is optimistic that once the investigation and the legislation are completed, the changes will get underway.
She made clear that while she was sympathetic to the wards at GIS, stressing that their social needs must be met, Government must handle the situation in a transparent manner.
“It is easy to talk but Government is liable for all of its actions and it has to be fair and transparent to the wards it has in the schools, the workers who work in the institution, the parents who are concerned about their children. There are many stakeholders and I am satisfied that arrangements are being put in place that will hopefully not only see the reform but also the provision of support for the emotional and transformational needs that are needed for those kids,” Mottley said.
The Prime Minister also declared her preference for a new facility that would cater to the needs of young people, saying: “I wish I had a blank cheque because if I did, I would create a residential institution that would allow us to be able to hold persons, not who have breached the law but who are having difficulties and who need social support, emotional support and guidance, and we have to balance that with the outlay that we are doing with other social institutions.”