Children facing abuse urged to call 211 helpline any timeThursday, September 23, 2021
BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON
CHILDREN were yesterday urged to report cases of abuse any time of the day by calling the 211 helpline to get the necessary help.
The 24-hour helpline, which has been operational since June, is the first of its kind in Jamaica and can be dialled from a cellular or landline telephone free of cost. It is operated by professionals from Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), through the National Children Registry.
Addressing the official launch of the helpline yesterday, state minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Robert Nesta Morgan stressed that the number is always available for assistance as “children are not only abused from 9 to 5”.
“Many children are abused late at night, early in the mornings, on the streets, in the evenings, etc. It is important that children have a quick access to a number which they can use as close to the incident of abuse as possible because the longer a child takes to report an abuse in some cases, it is harder for the child to report it or relive the experience while talking about it,” Morgan said.
In May this year, the state minister told Jamaica Observer editors and reporters that the 211 helpline was not a duplicate of the 888-Protect (776-8328). He noted that the gaps in the 888-Protect system should be filled by the 211 helpline.
“The effort is not being duplicated. We have a myriad of numbers and sometimes it gets confusing. Someone said to me that they called the [CPFSA] and nobody was answering and they heard that they don't work on weekends,” he had said.
Yesterday, chief executive officer at CPFSA Rosalee Gage-Grey pointed out that the 211 helpline will eventually replace the 888-Protect.
“We are phasing out 888 Protect and 211 helpline will be the main number and it facilitates us getting multiple calls on the line and can be rooted to any of our offices across the island,” she said.
Pointing to reports of child abuse received from the National Children Registry (NCR), she said on average, there are over 1,200 cases monthly.
She said there was a reduction in the numbers during the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic but since June, there has been more than 1,000 cases of child abuse reported.
“One of the benefits of the merger of the Child Development Agency with NCR is that registration officers have been deployed to all 14 parishes of the CPFSA and also at the main centre of the NCR. We are pleased to report that through the expansion, our services have been more effective as persons can call or walk-in at any of the offices, to make these reports and once the reports are received, registration officers can directly input them and refer to our officers in the field,” she said.
There is also collaboration with the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), Office of the Children's Advocate, and all other relevant agencies to give assistance where needed.
Minister of Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams said the issue of child abuse is quit prevalent in the society.
“We need to employ all the necessary resources to protect our children to ensure the reduction of these cases. It is within this context that the Government has been making efforts to secure a three-digit toll free number for child abuse reporting, with the hope that more cases of child abuse will be reported especially our children, if they are being victimised,” she said.