|Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley??|
Statistics from the Child Care Board (CCB) show a worrying trend – of 163 centres known to the Board during January to December 2011; 96 were licensed.
And, according to Minister of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, though the Ministry and the Board had in the past employed "a careful, human approach", those operations could not be allowed to continue to flout the law.
"It is absolutely important that persons who wish to provide private day care services in Barbados ensure that their operations are licensed by the CCB.?? It is important certainly not only in the interest of those who manage the centres, but more importantly, in the interest of our children to ensure that they come under the ambit and the full scrutiny and protection of the Child Care Board.?? And, I have asked the Board to adopt a zero-tolerance level in relation to this because of the critical importance of ensuring that we can monitor this matter so that it is not an issue that gets out of hand," he asserted.
The Minister admitted that private day care operators were necessary in relation to the amount of children on the waiting list for public day care admission.?? "… But of course, we want them [private day care operators] to come on board in full accordance of the law.?? I’m sure the CCB is prepared to work with them and I believe that within Child Month there is a session that actually deals with this, in terms of the process and what is required, so that they do not go and set up shop in a particular facility which does not conform with the requirements as set up by the CCB, then they have problems with the Town and Country Development Planning Department," Mr. Lashley pointed out.????
From January to December 2011, there were 149 enquiries of which 98 pertained to the setting up new centres.?? Fifty-one complaints about conditions within centres were made and 32 centres were known to be operating illegally without the necessary Town and Country Development Planning approval. In addition, the Board assessed and commented on 15 files that were submitted for the Town and Country Development Planning Department. Eleven new applications for registration were received and the Board was informed of the closure of seven centres.
Director of the Board, June Crawford, explained that the problem started when persons first considered setting up a day care.?? "They should, at that point, come to the Child Care Board; but they don’t.?? So, what happens is the CCB would receive a report about a centre operating illegally and they would give an address and then we go after the fact and work with that individual …[Then] some of them would register once and would not register again although registration is an annual process," she revealed.??
Last year, officers assigned to the day care programme made approximately 200 visits to private day care centres for the purpose of monitoring, addressing complaints, conducting pre-inspections and carrying out annual licensing or registration.
??"We go in to the centres we ensure that all systems are in place, that the children are getting the best possible care and that they are complying with the regulations.?? The main area of concern to us is when persons go and rent properties that are residences and want to convert them to day care centres.?? You require the permission of the Town and Country Development Planning Department to do that…," Ms. Crawford outlined.
To mitigate this, the CCB will continue to send out notices, host meetings for private day care operators to encourage them to operate within the bounds of the law.??
As part of Child Month activities, operators and caregivers of private day care centres will participate in training on Thursday, May 24, when a one-day seminar entitled Raising the Bar will be held at the Hugh Springer Auditorium, Solidarity House, Harmony Hall, St. Michael, at 8:45 a.m.