Abuse case ‘spike’ due to families in crisis Furbert
Child abuse and neglect have increased as a result of families in crisis, according to Senator LaVerne Furbert.
Sen Furbert also said the Department of Financial Assistance's Budget has been cut by $1 million despite the fact that 400 additional people signed up for the programme last year.
The Junior Minister of Youth and Families made the comments in Friday's Senate meeting. She said 635 children were referred to the Department of Child and Family Services last year.She added there were 110 allegations of physical abuse, 104 allegations of sexual abuse, 94 allegations of behavioral issues and 244 allegations of neglect. Approximately half the referrals were substantiated.
“Last year there was a spike in physical abuse and cases of neglect, this can be attributed to an increase in the number of families in crisis and violence in the community,” she said.
Sen Furbert also outlined the Department of Financial Assistance's figures. She said the Budget had been reduced by $1 million this year. She told the Senate an additional 220 seniors and 163 disabled people signed up for Financial Assistance last year. Seventeen other people with a low income also signed up from the programme.
Last year 1,600 were enrolled in the programme up from 650 people six years ago. Seventy six percent of the people were receiving Financial Assistance Sen Furbert's announced the figures in Senate at the same time as Minister Glenn Blakeney asked for the supplementary estimate of $9.9 million to be approved in the House of Assembly.
Mr Blakeney said Department had seen an increase in demand for financial aid as a result of the current economic climate, where unemployment is higher than it has been in decades.
He added the Department had also spent nearly $10 million more than it should have as a result of helping to cover health bills of people who used to go to the indigent clinic and the Government's introduction of child day care allowance. Sen Furbert did not discuss the supplementary estimate from last year's Budget in the Senate on Friday, but she did say Government would be meeting the Budget cut through a variety of ways including reducing the child day care allowance from $70,000 to $50,000 and preventing people from abusing the system.
Senate Opposition spokeswoman for Youth and Families Suzann Roberts Holshouser said: “This does not surprise me and indeed I suggested this would be the outcome as more Bermudians find themselves in difficult financial conditions. “It does beg the question how can the people of Bermuda have any faith in the Budget before us when the numbers keep moving?”
During the debate Sen Furbert also outlined other aspects of the Ministry.
Last year 147 children were placed in foster care of which only 22 were reunited with their families. An additional 37 left foster care during the period and three became 18 and legal adults.
She urged people to come forward as foster parents.