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Editorial: Ensure All Our Children Are Protected

AFTER the outrage, the action.

We applaud Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell for the quick move to relieve staff members of their duties at the Children’s Emergency Hostel after video emerged of children being beaten in the home.

The police are now involved, and the case will proceed. Children are also to receive counselling, which may start as soon as today.

Perhaps the most promising thing from Mr Campbell’s statement is that he says officials “are very much displeased of where we are with this investigation”. So they should be. If the video had not emerged, would we even be having this conversation at all? Would, in fact, children still be being beaten but with no intervention, no staff members suspended, no counselling and no hope of anything changing?

Not being happy with the state of things is a good way to be – as long as you follow through and change that state of things.

Mr Campbell talks of the prospect of putting a management agreement in place for all homes that addresses discipline, and shutting down loopholes to stop this from happening in the future.

Agreements are one thing, the law is another. You don’t need agreements on discipline if you ensure the law of the land prevents such unacceptable behaviour. Then you just need evidence and the courts.

The agreements should ensure monitoring – camera footage being reviewed for instances of such behaviour, regular visits, interviews with the children on the nature of their care, and so on.

Mr Campbell fell short of giving his position on the issue of corporal punishment, however, and that is disappointing. Perhaps he doesn’t want to influence ongoing investigations or negotiations, but there should be no need to hesitate in calling out brutality.

More firmly, Education Minister Jeff Lloyd has said officials are having a “vigorous conversation” about whether corporal punishment should still be allowed in schools.

It is that wider discussion that needs to be had now. With the staff suspended and police involved in this incident, it will proceed to wherever the probe winds up – perhaps the courts, perhaps not. The children in this home have people to talk to, and the focus is on their safety.

What we need to talk about now is why were there conditions in place in this home that encouraged such beatings – and where else is this happening?

This must not be about one incident – it must be about our attitude to violence against children, and ensuring it is not happening in other homes, other facilities.

Mr Campbell is absolutely right when he says there is an opportunity here – it is an opportunity to change, for the sake of all our children.

Jobs at risk

If the devastating blow from President Joe Biden’s introduction of a quarantine period for travellers to the US wasn’t clear before, then Labour Director John Pinder makes it clear in today’s Tribune: More jobs could go.

Mr Pinder warned there could be more layoffs in the hotel sector if we do not secure an exemption from the US, and the unemployment rate – already soaring – to rise even further.

With the prospect of going into quarantine after a trip to The Bahamas, more travellers are going to be put off the idea of coming here. That will mean empty rooms, and there’s only so long hotels can stay open before that turns into closed doors.

Refreshingly honest, Mr Pinder says he doesn’t know a way we can get out of it, although he urged Bahamians to consider domestic travel. That will only get us so far. It’s effectively trying to lift the bucket while we’re still standing in it. We need that outside income to swell our economy.

So what can we do in the meantime? We can make ourselves as safe as possible. It’s hard to tell the US it’s safe for visitors to come here when we still have curfews because we say it’s not safe to have people out late at night. It’s hard to reassure the US on our testing regime when about half of those supposed to be taking the day five antigen test are missing out. It’s hard to reassure about our vaccine rollout plans when we don’t have any that have been revealed.

We need to get our side in order so we can make the best case possible to the US, and we also need to target markets other than the US as much as possible – ramp up our marketing to Canada, for example, to offer a little winter sun.

But let’s be clear – this decision means hard times ahead, and we need to be prepared for those too.

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