Oct 14 2013
The governments of St Helena and Ascension Island recognise their responsibility to protect the vulnerable in society, especially children. Following the improvements that flowed from the ‘Safeguarding Children in the Overseas Territories Programme’, work has continued to strengthen the child protection framework on both Islands, including raising awareness of the need to safeguard children from sexual or physical abuse. As a result, in the past few years several offenders have been detected, prosecuted and awarded custodial sentences.
To help assess progress and identify areas for improvement, two representatives of the independent Lucy Faithfull Foundation (LFF), a UK based charity dedicated to preventing the sexual abuse of children (http://www.lucyFaithfull.org/), visited St Helena and Ascension earlier this year. A summary of the report of their visit is available below. As the substantive report contains data that could identify individual child protection cases, it will be available only to officials involved in child protection work. While the report recognises the progress made, it points to areas where more remains to be done. The recent strengthening of the Police and Social Services Department on St Helena will help take forward this important work.
In relation to Ascension Island, the reviewers have welcomed initiatives like the Child Helpline and the introduction of a Counseling Service at the school, as steps in the right direction, but question their effectiveness to date. They welcomed the “Children in Bars” legislation. But, they have drawn attention to the degree of distrust between parents and Government institutions. In addition, they note that the working nature of Ascension may inhibit victims of sexual and domestic abuse from coming forward – out of a perceived fear of the impact it might have on their employment and entry control status or that of their family members. The Reviewers fear this may mask the true extent of this behavior on Ascension and recommend an education campaign to raise awareness in all parts of the community about the impact of sexual and domestic abuse on the victims, families, communities and even those who perpetrate it.
I welcome this report and believe more needs to be done to address both sexual and domestic abuse on Ascension. I look forward to working with the new Council, voluntary groups, employers and professionals from all parts of Ascension society to take this forward. The aim must be to stop abuse from happening but where it does, for victims to believe they can come forward and receive the support they need without fear of repercussion.
14th October 2013