Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde. (FP)

I am deeply saddened today by images circulating on social media which portray two juveniles abusing three homeless, elderly men by slapping them across their heads.

Judging by the giggles heard on the video, the youth seemed amused by the prank. I have been informed that they were taken into custody by the Police today, accompanied by their guardians and they have expressed remorse over their actions.

They have also apologised for their behaviour, including a personal apology to one of the complainants, who was at the police station.

I have also been informed that the elderly complainant is reluctant to press charges and is working with the authorities, including the Community Relations Department of the Police Force, to come up with a resolution which will help these young people to become more sensitive to the plight of the homeless, and how they can be supported.

As Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, this case concerns me on two levels. Elder abuse in any form is disturbing and is an important issue for my Ministry. Of equal concern is the health and safety of children in this country as the Child Care Board also falls under this Ministry’s mandate.

This situation has brought these groups together and it has brought home to me the need for all the social service agencies to work even harder to sensitise our various publics about the challenges faced by these two groups.

Society, as a whole, needs to be sensitised to the issues surrounding homelessness. Because the homeless are living on the streets, they are often more open to assault, verbal abuse and harassment, and this, for me, is a horrifying state of affairs.

We need to recognise that people who find themselves in this unfortunate situation are human beings who deserve the same love and respect which we give to anyone else.

As a Government, we continue to work to ensure that people facing homelessness get the support they need and I urge the public to report cases of abuse when they witness them.

We also have an obligation to our young people, to make sure that we educate them and sensitise them to respect everyone so that they do not see the vulnerable among us as targets for ridicule.  

Our young people must never be socialised to view human beings as “other”. We are all God’s children, whatever our circumstances in life, and therefore discrimination and stigma must have no part in informing how we relate to one another.

Let us all learn from this unfortunate circumstance, and as we go forward, commit to helping the young and the old to live fulfilling lives in this country.

Minister Of People Empowerment And Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde

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