WEDNESDAY, DEC. 12: We would like to see the establishment of a a taskforce to determine how the social services agencies (including the Department of Financial Assistance, the Bermuda Housing Corporation, the Department of Child and Family Services and the Cross Ministry Intervention Team) can operate more cooperatively and more efficiently with one another. These agencies should all be located in the same ministry.

Institute Child Protection Mediation and Family Group Conferencing which requires all stakeholders to engage in a problem-solving process before children are removed from a home or before major decisions are made by the courts about a child’s welfare or placement.

Stop the practice of placing children in foster care solely because a parent is homeless or poor. Instead, use the funds spent on foster care to provide financial support and keep the family intact.

It is no surprise that a significant portion of the inmate population has spent their childhood moving from one foster home to another.

Ensure parents whose children are threatened to be taken into care have the right to legal representation and do not appear in court without such representation.

Prevent fathers who refuse to pay child support from re-licensing vehicles, travelling abroad or renewing passports.

Enforce a more humane approach towards the rules and regulations at the Bermuda Housing Corporation’s emergency housing facility Gulfstream, which would include:

Remove the stipulation that women are not allowed to babysit each other’s children.

Remove the rule that BHC staff can enter residents’ room at any time and without notice as they are paying tenants who have a right to privacy and at least 24 hours notice for inspection.

Expand food assistance programmes such as our breakfast programme These programmes must be supported by government. Increasingly, children are arriving at school without breakfast or sometimes even lunch. This contributes to students’ difficulty with learning as it is widely recognized that children must have sufficient diets in order to participate productively in school.

Prison Reform

Expand drug and alcohol treatment programmes in both the Co- Ed and Westgate facilities sufficiently to service the 85% who require it.

Stop the practice of automatically releasing violent offenders after two-thirds of their sentence. This practice allows dangerous offenders to avoid rehabilitation programmes and return to the community without the benefit of parole supervision.

Expand the violent offender and anger management programmes in the prisons using properly trained psychologists to deliver these programmes. These programmes should be made mandatory before consideration is given for parole.

Mandate post release violent and sexual offender treatment programs as part of parole stipulations for offenders who require continued treatment.

Reopen the Transitional Living Centre to ensure a full complement of treatment staff in the prisons.

Law Enforcement and the Judiciary

Stop the practice of incarcerating individuals who are unable to pay off debts. This amounts to a debtor prison and has no place in a civilized society.

Make greater use of the CCTV cameras in crime prone areas.

Put greater focus on the training and oversight of the police force and provide adequate resources for the Police Complaints Commission.

Extend witness protection and make much more use of the United Kingdom as a safe haven for those who testify or help the police.

Develop victim assistance programmes to address the emotional, psychological, and economic issues presented by their victimization and reverse the decision to cut funding for the Victim Compensation Program.

Conduct a review of the juvenile justice system to assess effectiveness with a view toward implementing restorative justice practices.

We believe that if government follows our 30-point plan, we will see a substantial improvement in the lives of our most vulnerable families. As a consequence, we will all live in a healthier and safer community.

• Sheelagh Cooper is head of the Coalition for the Protection of Children.Part I of this column appeared in last Wednesday’s Sun. Visit: www.bermudasun.bm