BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday January 14, 2011 – The Ministry of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth is spearheading an all-out attack against increasing crime and violence among Barbadian youth.
In fact, if Family Minister Stephen Lashley has his way, a structured, multi-sectoral, coordinated programme aimed at helping to arrest deviant behavior among at-risk youth could be rolled out in targeted communities as early as next month.
Word of this came after the Minister and a team of high-ranking Ministry officials held talks with Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin and other members of the Royal Barbados Police Force's top brass, to map out a way forward. According to Minister Lashley, the meeting was the third one convened in recent months to address issues surrounding youth deviance and crime.
"I guess the importance has been heightened because of what is happening in Barbados, namely the increase of violent crime that has caused both the police and the society some concern," he said.
Highlighting the need for a holistic approach to this problem, Lashley said the intervention currently being drafted would entail both public and private sector collaboration, as well as input from international development agencies and community volunteers. It will also have a focus on mentorship and self-help programmes.
In this regard, the Minister revealed that a proposal outlining project-based interventions under three major themes - Multi-sectoral collaboration; Economic Development and the Creation of Safe and Attractive Public Spaces – was expected to be taken to Cabinet by the end of this month. Sub-themes relating to culture, sports and the arts will also be central to the proposal.
"In a sense, we are looking at some specific interventions. Some of them can be dealt with within our existing resources, but we know that we will have to tap other resources in terms of the more involved programmes...So, we are going to be very specific in terms of the various areas that we could actually move forward in," Lashley explained.
He added that recommendations would be made to Cabinet to immediately commence interventions which could be aided by voluntary efforts.
In terms of youth unemployment, Lashley contended that this problem must be tackled in a more aggressive way, specifically through youth empowerment. He cited initiatives including skills development, the provision of seed funding, incubation for youth business and opportunities for persons to become engaged in entrepreneurial activity, as those being considered.
"There is already out there an inclination among a number of people to be involved in self-help measures, what we have to do is to create some framework under which those could be successfully done. So, I hope that once Cabinet approves the actual project that we can really hit the ground and get these things under way," Minister Lashley said.
Making it clear that the initiative would be multi-ministerial, he noted that while his Ministry would take the lead, all departments which held responsibility for youth development, with the assistance of private sector partners, would be co-opted to execute it.
The findings from a recent National Youth Forum, as well as an ongoing National Youth Assessment Survey, will also be used to inform the initiative.