Child protection and taking care of our vulnerable ones

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Alexander Rheeney

It is perhaps not a coincidence that a non-government organisation recently held a workshop on child protection, as Samoa begins the countdown to White Sunday celebrations this weekend.

The Wellbeing and Community Solutions (WCS) ran a workshop to introduce “child protection case management” systems. The case management model, which was introduced to the workshop participants, uses a person-centered and holistic approach to support people with disabilities, as well as children and young people who are at risk of harm. 

The new case management model is to enable everyone to be aware that the project offers a proper system, which comprises seven elements in documenting and creating a proper report – which can be used by agencies or a service provider or in court proceedings as well as provide the best practice in terms of dealing with issues related to not only child protection, but also people living with disabilities. 

WCS technical advisor, Fuimaono Gabrielle Onesemo, said the objective of the project – in collaboration with various partners – is to protect children and young people from abuse and neglect through early case management intervention work. 

“It also aims to improve outcomes for vulnerable children, young people and families through integrated and coordinated service delivery (some applies to children and adults with disabilities). 

“And also through its elements, it will collaboratively work to promote general and clinical assessment, identification of gaps and duplication in service delivery and more efficient use of resources. 

“Additionally, it will provide analysis in the report which will help an individual in obtaining the right services and to effectively engage the family, local community and organisations, which includes taking into account access and equity issues,” he said.

The workshop, which was convened at the Tanoa Hotel conference room, attracted participants from various walks of life. They included Australia-Pacific Technical Coalition (APTC), Senese, Fiamalamalama School, and youth and church groups.

We take our hats off to NGOs such as the WCS, for taking up the cause and becoming champions of the community’s vulnerable groups. There is no doubt that people with disability, children and youth will be the biggest beneficiaries of all that was imparted at the workshop – over the long-term period. Credit should also go to the Civil Society Support Programme (CSSP) for funding the training workshop.

Sadly the phrase “child protection”, for me, immediately conjures up images of the youngsters that we all see everyday hanging around the major supermarkets in Apia, carrying their baskets of popcorn, boxes of matches or earbuds packets and hoping that a good Samaritan would spare one tala. The ages of these children strike me, as some of them look as young as four or five years old and should be in school or in the company of their parents, rather than peddling their goods and remain vulnerable. 

A fortnight ago Samoa was given a pretty good report card by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the 2018 Human Development Index (HDI). 

“Fiji, Palau, Samoa, and Tonga remain in the High Human Development category of the latest Human Development Index (HDI) and are joined by the Republic of Marshall Islands which is included in the index for the first time. At the other end of the spectrum, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea are rated as Low Human Development on the HDI’s measurement of national achievements in health, education and income,” stated the UNDP report.

As I have intimated in an earlier editorial, give credit where credit is due so kudos to Prime Minister Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his Government on doing such a wonderful job. 

But there are cracks appearing in the delivery of essential goods and services in Samoa and giving all Samoan citizens every opportunity to economically empower themselves. Seeing the children gather around the major retail outlets in Apia, with their baskets of snacks and other items, tells me that there are families in Samoa that are literally living by the day. They do not care about the big picture issues such as trade agreements, climate change, Chinese aid, Australian development grants etc. (which are critically important to the development of this nation). They just want to have the ability to put food on their tables and live a happy life. 

All in all it is time for leaders and technocrats to make a link between the public policy documents that they are creating in the halls of power and the lives of ordinary people on the streets in the rural communities. 

With White Sunday a couple of days away and all that it represents for our children and the blessings that they give us. Let us spare a thought for the children, who gather around the main retail outlets in Apia, and give when we can. Let us hope too that those, who were given the mandate to change their lives for the better, take those steps to make it happen. Have a fabulous working week Samoa and God bless.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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