Social challenges deep in Cayman

The rise in violent crime in the Cayman Islands is proof that our islands face social challenges that are complex and require rigorous, sustained, disciplined analysis. In particular, the ministries responsible for social, educational and employment matters, must come together to improve strategies and methods that will enhance positive social change and address negative social factors.

It is well known that at-risk persons and their families have multiple needs and interrelated problems that are not likely to be successfully addressed by single-response, stand-alone initiatives. In July 2009, I recommended to the UDP Cabinet that the Ministry of Community Affairs join with the Ministry of Education and Labour in embracing the concept of community-based collaborative, which is focused on services integration; monitoring and evaluating program outcomes.

Research has shown that implementing community-based collaborative can be expensive, however, in Cayman this should not require major additional funding, if existing funds are reallocated in an effective manner that eliminates duplication and creates a comprehensive continuum of care.

Communicating a vision of a multi-disciplinary approach for service delivery personal, for at least these two ministries, will better allow for the identification of the strengths and processes of programmes that need to be improved or changed. This vision of a multi-agency approach to social ills in our society might already exist; however, much more can be done to improve on the positive results of such an approach.

Our community has experience rapid changes in values and lifestyle in a very short period; therefore it is nonsensical to adopt the position that we have had sufficient research, evaluation and consideration of our social challenges. The mere fact that problems are being studied impacts the subjects in ways that can be positive and progressive. There is therefore no doubt in my mind that the establishment of a social research unit within the government or support by government and private sector funds, would help to improve our knowledge of and treatment, of our evolving social problems.

Understandably, there are many among us that believe, that their understanding of and solutions for our social ills are as relevant as those of any experienced social scientist; therefore there is no need to hire social research personnel and apply their experiences on a continuing basis. In my opinion what has never worked is running back to studies shelved every time the society is motivated by their own fears of a diminishing lifestyle.

I am not suggesting that social research and the application of social strategies are cures for sin, but I am saying that there has never been a case of a society experiencing social breakdown, being able to completely reverse this trend. However, there is much to suggest that like a cancer, social breakdown becomes more deadly if not continuously treated and this is only possible if there is continued research and evaluation of the stage or stages of social breakdown.

Frank McField