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Motion for Adjournment: The Hon Dr Barry Elsby, MLA 30/01

Mr Speaker I had visions of that pot of pennies and two-pence on your mantle-piece. I thought that was your pension fund.

I really want to touch on issues about safeguarding children. Before that I would just like to respond to something the Honourable Roger Edwards said in response to the Motion proposed by my Honourable Colleague Michael Poole and seconded by myself.

Roger Edwards seemed somewhat shocked that we should be talking about such things and suggested that either Michael or myself had been bullied into doing this. I do not share his concern. I certainly was not bullied. I cannot speak for my Colleague the Honourable Mr Michael Poole. The reason I want to debate this in the House now is so that the Public are aware why we did something in EXCO that seemed to go against what many of us wished and supported during the election campaign.

I would just like to talk on child safeguarding for two reasons, really  one because the Honourable Michael Summers, who is out of the Islands at the moment. As many people will know we are going to have sort of a monthly change-over of chair within the MLAs. We are now having a 3-month Chair. And each Char is encouraged to take up an activity  to take up something they wish to push forward during their three months. Mike Summers very much wants to push forward safeguarding and so do I. so it is an opportunity for me to speak on his behalf and my behalf today.

Safeguarding as I see it is safeguarding our children against abuse and as a society we have been very slow in recognising the problem that lays within the Islands. We always used to believe our children were safe and there were no dangers. They could go out and play without any concern. They still can but we now see the problems that have been lurking within our society. And we see that by the number of men who are in prison at the moment for offences against children. And thats not the end of it. There are more cases to follow.

But what we dont see is the harm that those men did to the children. And I think as a society we have to respond to that. We cant just ignore it any more. We asked for the Lucy Faithful Organisation to come down to help us to decide how to address the problems.  to see what sort of problems in the Islands that have led to this. The report was a very good one. Its a public document and the report was very good. It didnt say we were an awful society. It said we were an average society and that most societies have these sorts of problems lurking away. But what they did say is that we as a society do not have the robust organisations in place to recognise and to deal with this before it became a serious matter.

So the Government has taken very much on-board the recommendations from the Lucy Faithful Report. We have increased the capacity of the Police to respond. We have altered the way in which the social services is instructed and strengthened that so, again, we can help to prevent this and also help those people who have been abused. We are introducing an updated Childrens Ordinance and we have organised a safeguarding board to try and pull all these strands together.

The latest safeguarding board has recommended that we start a publicity campaign. We develop publicity to help not only children but also their parents and society as a whole so we can better understand where the dangers lie. We probably all thought in the past of a child being picked up in a land rover and taken away. It still happens  that stinging attitude people have that older men wait to take out younger under-aged girls. It still happens but much more the danger lays with texting or sexting where people are persuaded to send compromising pictures over the internet to someone else and before you know it that child is drawn into a situation they dont know how to handle. They are threatened with exposure if they dont go the next step.

So the publicity campaign we intend to run is to inform parents and children how to say NO and to ask for help. The thing that came up that surprised me was sleep-overs  they are part of growing up. But the police are very worried that sleep-overs in many cases happen at a time when children are not supervised by their parents on their use of the internet or their mobile and smart phones and at a time when the internet is free. So there seems to be some dangers that children are accessing the free internet when their parents are asleep and also so the parents dont notice the cost.

We are looking as much as we can across all these areas to try to protect our children. With my education hat on I have been asked to act as a Childs Champion to ask departments about how their decisions might affect our children and to make sure that nothing we do across Government puts our children at risk.

As I said at the very beginning the Honourable Mike Summers will be using his 3 months as a Chair to raise these issues  to push forward the safeguarding issues that exist. And I fully support his in that. I am sure all members and indeed the whole country will join with me in that.

And finally, I would like to echo one of my Honourable Colleagues  as he said earlier  we owe a debt of thanks to Justine Hoskins who is seconded to work in the Attorney Generals department to help us with a new Childrens ordinance and to help to guide us in the other ways that we need to change and to help our children. She is due to leave soon and I would like to express all our thanks to her for all the good work she has done.

I will leave it there Mr Speaker.

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