MINISTER in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Ayanna Webster-Roy dismissed a suggestion from Princes Town MP Barry Padarath that the Children's Authority has been neglected by the PNM since it assumed office in September 2015.
Padarath made the claim during a virtual meeting of the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives on Monday.
At the time, the committee was considering a $16,520,000 supplementation for the OPM.
He said, "For years under this administration, Government has denied that the Children's Authority has been under-resourced and under-staffed."
After recalling Webster-Roy said 70 per cent of the supplemental funding would be used for recruiting staff for the authority, Padarath asked what would be the process used to identify these people.
"Are they already operating or is it that these are persons to be hired? Is it an admission today, really, that the Children's Authority has been under-resourced and understaffed for years under this administration?"
In response, Webster-Roy said, "I reject the notion that the Children's Authority has been under-resourced and understaffed. The Children's Authority over the period would have been expanded."
She explained that because the authority expanded, "we would be required to recruit." Webster-Roy said, "The funding will be used to pay current staff and, as we expand and continue to improve our services, to pay those who are coming on board.
"As I would have indicated in my response earlier, some persons have already been hired. For persons to come on board, the normal recruitment process will follow."
Padarath asked if there were any advertisements for vacancies which have subsequently been filled.
Webster-Roy said, “The Children's Authority has a standard policy in place for recruitment." She told Padarath she could provide that policy to him in writing.
Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh asked if any of the money would be used to increase security and surveillance at any of the safe houses run by the authority, in light of the incident in March where five teenage boys escaped from one of these facilities and two of them were subsequently murdered in Laventille.
Webster-Roy said, "Apart from improving security and surveillance, the bulk of the money as I would have indicated, 70 per cent, would go towards human resources.
"By improving our human resource capacity, we would be able to ensure that those children are properly cared for. That their safety and their well being will always be considered."