Over the years, the Flow Foundation has been an advocate for empowering children and supporting their safety and right to life. The Foundation has done this through its many partnerships and initiatives that offer communication tools, digital literacy and broadband access for our children’s healthy development. One such initiative is SafeSpot, a collaboration by the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA), UNICEF and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ). Flow, which is a member of the PSOJ, facilitates the toll-free line (888-723-7768) on its network.
SafeSpot was launched in May 2021 and is a free 24/7 helpline that provides counselling to children and teenagers who require mental, emotional and social well-being support. Flow also recently added a SMS messaging service, giving the OCA more opportunities to provide life-saving intervention. SafeSpot is staffed by qualified counsellors and psychologists who have been specifically trained to respond to the needs of children in Jamaica.
According to the most recent UNICEF Violence Against Children report, Jamaica ranks amongst the highest countries in Latin America and the Caribbean for violent disciplining in the home. The OCA recently reported that between January to December 2022, the SafeSpot helpline received 2,345 reports from children as young as three years old. Of this number, 447 of the callers were categorised as having undisclosed mental health issues; 113 callers were children who experienced suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide; and 111 were children who were affected by fear and anxiety. The OCA added that 42 per cent of the total calls to SafeSpot were from Kingston and St Andrew, while 23 per cent were from St Catherine. The majority of the callers were females.
Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison says SafeSpot has helped to fill an important need, allowing Jamaica to better protect its children.
“As The Office of the Children’s Advocate has a mandate to safeguard the rights of children and to promote their best interests, SafeSpot has positively impacted our ability to reach children across Jamaica in a meaningful way,” said Gordon Harrison. “Through SafeSpot, we are able to identify the concerns of children in the 14 parishes, isolate what issues affect each age grouping better and what is happening with boys versus girls. This information feeds directly into the OCA’s ability to specifically target each cohort and to ensure that the support and guidance that they need is appropriately provided.”
She further added: “At the macro-level, as time progresses SafeSpot will be able to assist with policy direction as its very rich data can serve as a guide as to where the problems are and the types of interventions that are needed.”
According to Kayon Mitchell, Director of Communications at Flow Jamaica and Executive Director of the Flow Foundation, “Violence against children must be eliminated from our society. It will take a collaborative approach to truly understand how our children are dealing with the issues they face daily and how we can help them.”
“The toll-free line and SMS service provided by Flow will help the OCA optimise its communication and outreach efforts by providing more options for children at risk to reach out for help.”
In support of child safety and empowerment, the Flow Foundation also provides a toll-free line to UNICEF’s U-Report, a social messaging tool and data collection system, as well as powers free internet service for the Mustard Seed facilities and numerous community centres across the island. Through its partnership with the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), the Flow Foundation also impacts children in state care through donations, specialised activities and free broadband service.