Staff woes affecting Probation Unit

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More staff is needed for the Probation Unit within the Ministry of Social Transformation to effectively respond to the needs of families and individuals seeking help to deal with social problems.
This is one of the major problems plaguing the unit, which works closely with the court system – the main route through which the majority of juvenile offenders are placed under its supervision
Alethea Byers, director of the family and social services division (Probation Unit) highlighted the problem during an interview on Wednesday.
She said there are several programmes in place to address specific issues but without adequate staff, the department’s work will be hampered.
“When you look at the statistics, we have 466 child protection cases beforecthe courts, and about eight child protection officers – maybe five functioning now because of vacation and leave. It is tough,” Byers said.
The director was speaking in an interview following a ceremony to mark the opening of the fifth annual Parenting Empowerment Programme.
In highlighting that the Family and Social Services Department currently has 466 childcare cases before the courts, Byers outlined that 127 of those cases are for custody and financial maintenance and access, and 110 cases of child neglect.
Byers noted that with respect to the child maintenance and support cases, it is unfortunate that some parents are still refusing to support their children, which places an additional responsibility on social workers to pursue the matter legally.
“With all these issues to deal with, how can we implement the programmes that we have in place to effect change?” Byers lamented.
She also explained that parents and residents who require the assistance of the department are not coming forward.
“You set appointments, and they don’t show up. We go out in the community and visit the homes and schedule meeting but when you return they are not at home.
“Those are not the only issues, we have people coming in who are so depressed with suicidal thoughts, and when they come, they have to be referred to the counselling unit which is overburdened already,” Byers continued.
The department head is inviting people with counselling skills or have studied child psychology to apply to work with the Probation Unit.

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