Gov’t reworks youth policy

The government ministry with
responsibility for youth recently previewed the reworked National Youth Policy
of the Cayman Islands.

Mark Scotland, minister for Youth,
Sports and Culture said the draft document will be further scrutinised by
officials in the coming weeks before being tabled in the Legislative Assembly
in early 2011.

“The picture may seem bleak at this
time, but there are no ‘quick-fixes.’ It will take an integrated effort to
address the needs of our youth,” Mr. Scotland said.

He was accompanied by Chief Officer
Jennifer Ahearn when the summary document was officially presented on
Wednesday, 6 October.

The executive summary of the
100-page draft that was compiled from many sources notes that previous reports
and studies suggested a number of practical corrective recommendations.

While the latest document
highlights positive achievements and efforts to support youth development, it
also addresses key concerns more recently identified by young people during
school surveys. These include crime and violence, school-related issues,
substance abuse, the economy and education.

These findings largely reflect
those of the original youth policy survey a decade ago, although the earlier
exercise also listed sex-related issues, boredom, the environment and career
opportunities as concerns.

“We must lift up our children and
youth, and do everything within our means to protect them from abuse and
exposure to damaging influences – sometimes even from within their own communities
and families,” Jennifer Manderson, National Youth Commission chairman said at a
recent meeting.

Issues discussed focused on drug
abuse, the high number of juvenile arrests and the rise in violence among
youth. Mr. Scotland said he shares the commission’s concerns, and he commended
the members for their diligence.

“I see the youth policy as an
important over-arching document and I look forward to sharing it with my
Cabinet colleagues and moving forward into the implementation stage.”

He added that some action plans are
already under way, including reform in education and community affairs.

The original youth policy, written
in 1999, was accepted by legislators as government’s official youth policy. The
youth commission was established as an autonomous body at the same time.