Last week the Falkland Islands Government published their annual report on safeguarding and child protection issues in the Islands. The Government is obliged legally to publish an annual report on such matters, a requirement brought into law in 2014 after a number of historic issues were discovered and investigated in recent years. This document looks to summarize activities in this field over the past year and does not provide any details on individual cases.
The annual report is collated by the Chair of the Islands Safeguarding Board. This position is currently held by Mandy Whittingham, the Islands Director of Health and Social Services, though it has been held by different posts in the past. The Board meets at least four times annually and part of their work is open to the public, though when confidential details are discussed the meetings are then closed to the public. This aligns with practice across a range other committees in the Islands.
The Falkland Islands, whilst a small and close-knit community, is not immune to the child protection issues that other countries also face.
The report states within it that the “…Falklands has the opportunity to become a model of best safeguarding practice and a safe place in which children may live and thrive”. This ambitious goal has political support within the Islands, but implementation is a challenge. The report also recognises that anonymity in such a small place is difficult and that there is limited capacity for specialist services for children in need, meaning that some have had to go to the UK to be supported. The Falkland Islands Government will generally fund this. Training is also cited as a challenge, with additional training for Police Officers planned for 2018.
Safeguarding provision also includes the protection of all vulnerable groups across the Islands, such as those with disabilities and the elderly and infirm. This annual report, and much of the work undertaken by the Safeguarding Board, focuses on children as those wider issues are dealt with separately. The Board is however also looking at the wider issue of domestic abuse, and particularly the impact this can have in children in families where this occurs. An awareness-raising campaign has been planned for some time and is likely to be seen in 2018.
One emerging area of concern, which has been witnessed across the globe, is that of sexual images being exchanged on smart-phones and across social media. The number of instances of this have grown over the past year and the police and education services have been looking to educate young people on the dangers involved in such activities.
The report also cites an ongoing concern over the standards of the local nurseries in the Islands. This is an issue that has widely been debated by the local community and the Government is now looking to intervene with initial legislation and regulations. Public funding is also being made available to develop facilities.
The annual report will next be formally presented to and debated within the Islands Legislative Assembly on the 29th May.