Young people to be prepared for independent living
The Government’s Independent Living Programme has been extended to those who remain in care under the Department of Child and Family Services.
Tinée Furbert, the Minister of Youth, Social Development and Seniors, provided an update of her ministry’s Throne Speech initiatives.
Ms Furbert said: “The Independent Living Programme launched earlier this year provides the opportunity for a maximum of two years of life skills, peer support and educational planning for those who have aged out of the Director of Child and Family Services on turning 18.
“To build on the success of this initiative, the Government will provide a level-up component of the programme, extending the services to young people aged between 17 and 17½ years old that remain in care.
“They will now benefit from the life skills preparation in this transitional stage where they begin to assume the responsibilities of independent living.”
According to Ms Furbert, stakeholders, including programme participants, said it would be more beneficial to expose the age group to the life skills and experience of living independently in a supervised environment so that they are able to make informed decisions ahead of turning 18.
“While many are eager to become their own adult at 18, the immediate responsibilities of a grown-up can be confusing. They cannot pick and choose what they want to have control over and hope someone else will take on the areas that they may not have considered.
“While participants will engage in daily-life skills, they will also slowly integrate into the weekly group sessions.”
Topics covered in daily-life skills will include money and food management, personal appearance, hygiene, health, housekeeping, transportation, educational planning, employable skills, interpersonal skills, legal issues and pregnancy prevention.
Ms Furbert also reiterated the Government’s work in establishing a Multi-Risk Assessment Conference Model to address domestic abuse.
The multi-agency committee is developing a five-year domestic abuse strategic plan that will build upon key priorities identified in the SafeLives review.
Ms Furbert said: “The focus will be to combat domestic abuse, mitigate against its familial and societal impacts, and promote the safety of children and families experiencing this trauma.”
In October, staff at the Department of Child and Family Services participated in training on prevention of domestic abuse facilitated by the Centre Against Abuse, one of the MARAC agency partners.
Ms Furbert said: “I participated in that training, which was very informative and will help participants in identifying signs of domestic violence, and how to be sensitive, compassionate and responsive to the needs of persons experiencing domestic violence.”
The hiring of a domestic abuse liaison officer is under way.
Ms Furbert said her ministry continues to collaborate with the charity Home and other private sector partners to address homelessness. A strategy is due to be completed by the end of the year, and implementation will take up to five years thereafter, she said.
She said that as part of financial assistance reform, the ministry will ensure the establishment of a short-term relief benefit.
“The short-term relief benefit will serve people in need,” she said. “I will speak more to this in the months ahead.”
The ministry partnered with the Bermuda Health Council to bring the National Seniors Strategy to fruition. Ms Furbert said the strategy will be completed by next April and she will share more information in Parliament.
She also provided an update on the development of a formal register for persons with disabilities.
She said: “In October, the ministry team met with representatives from the United Nations Development Programme country office in Jamaica who are lending technical support for the creation of the disability register.
“The team obtained insightful information from the Jamaica Council about where to start in setting up a disability.
“The next leg of work will entail framing the structure of the disability register and collecting the data.”
Ms Furbert also touched on amendments to legislation in the works on simplifying cross-border adoptions.