Urging the corporate sector to
sponsor volunteer care initiatives
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Social Policy
Dr Lawrence Gonzi addresses a seminar on Emerging challenges of
looking after children in residential care organised by the APPOGG
agency yesterday. In his address, Dr Gonzi called on the corporate sector
to look closely at projects like Home Start and urged corporate support
for these programmes.
Childrens issues and needs have for a long time
been the focus of a number of initiatives. Both Government and the church
have been active in this sector although the church has been directly
involved for a longer period. The Childrens Homes are a clear
legacy of the involvement of the church in the care for children.
However times are changing fast. Previously, children that were admitted
into care were children whose parents were of limited means but still
provided the emotional support needed by children. Today most of the
children that reside in Childrens Homes are children who have
experienced some kind of trauma or have a psychological or physical
condition. This effectively means that the way we care for these children
is changing and needs to change even further.
Children needing protection are everybodys problem. It is a societal
problem and the first thing that we need to do is to create the necessary
structures and community support to avoid children needing to go into
care. I am pleased to note that APPOGG is providing social work support
in Cottonera as well as the Programme Ulied Darna which provides volunteer
support to families needing long term support. I do hope that the Agency
will manage to launch the Home Start programme in the near future so
that there will be more intensive work done with families.
In this respect I call on the corporate world to look closely at projects
like Home Start and I urge them to support these programmes. Corporate
sponsors have traditionally focused on sponsoring building, upgrades
of physical environments and one off initiatives. These are important
aspects and I take this opportunity to acknowledge publicly the contribution
that they have made because it expresses in concrete terms the value
of solidarity in our society. However I must stress that most families
need the support of social workers and trained volunteers who have the
time to spend with families and children in need. I therefore urge corporate
and private sponsors to include these initiatives when deciding what
initiatives to sponsor.
APPOGG has in the last years established the Looked after Children Service
as a means of support to the children who are already in care and also
to compliment the work done by the religious orders. To start with I
want to thank the nuns and the priests who have dedicated their lives
for these children and I also welcome the new policy that the church
has developed for its Homes. However I call for an integration of services
between the state agency and the childrens homes. I know that
there already exist a very good working relationship and contact and
discussions are a daily occurrence. However the complexity of the cases
require constant evaluation and a lot of creativity and flexibility
in taking decisions and handling situations.
Government is considering a proposal from APPOGG regarding the setting
up of a service for children with severe behavioural problems as well
as an outreach service to families who experience similar problems.
These are currently under evaluation. The High Support Service has worked
relatively well and this was one good example of the level of integration
that already exists between the Childrens Homes and APPOGG.
It is a challenge for both the agency and the religious orders. On one
hand the agency never worked so close with the Homes while the Homes
never had so many lay workers working in their Homes. These are changing
times and we need to adapt to them in order to continue to deliver an
I am also pleased to learn that the office of the Childrens homes
and APPOGG are together working on a policy to regulate the social contacts.
I strongly commend this initiative and urge every stakeholder to move
forward on this issue because it is crucial for us to be able to offer
a viable alternative to children who are innocent victims of events
that are often dramatic and traumatic.
Childrens issues are not limited to the responsibility that we
have towards them as children who need care and support but the concept
of childrens rights that has emerged in recent years, should be
our driving force in policy development and service development. The
responsibilities that we have do not only come from the fact that we
have the authority as parents or the State but stems from the fact that
children are no less important than any other citizen. They have rights
and as such parents and the State do not only have the authority but,
more importantly, have the responsibilities and obligations towards
Malta is fortunate because it continues to have a strong family unit.
This is no coincidence but is the result of a government policy that
is built on family friendly policies. The recent amendments to the employment
legislation is a typical example of our strong commitment in this sense.
But there is still so much more that has to be done, especially because
we have to adapt to the new challenges that our society faces in these
modern times. Again, please allow me to take this opportunity to encourage
parents to continue to invest quality time in their childrens
upbringing, and to keep themselves abreast with the changing trends,
challenges and opportunities that their children face.
The recent bill bringing into force the office of the Childrens
Commissioner was a confirmation of the governments commitment
to bring childrens issues to the fore. The State wanted to ensure
that childrens issues are mainstreamed in all national policies
and due attention will be given to the rights and needs of children.
We consider this innovation as a milestone but we also realise that
there are other areas in our legislation that deal with issues related
to children, and which need to be updated to modern day realities. These
areas will soon be tackled by means of specific legislation.
The setting up of the Family Court will also accentuate the rights of
the child in the deliberations before the courts in separation cases
and I am pleased to report progress in this area, as was announced last
week by the Minister responsible for Justice and Home Affairs.
However a higher profile for childrens issues is needed. The old
premise that children should be seen but not heard is no longer valid.
Children should be heard loud and clear and their opinions and considerations
taken into account when developing policy and services.
Social policy is not merely an exercise in providing for those who are
amongst the most needy in our society. It is also an exercise to provide
a vision for the future of our society and for the common good of present
and future generations. It represents the action we must take today
to address the future challenges of our society. In this sense, therefore,
the decisions that we take today in order to address the needs of our
children, represent an investment for the future of our country.
To achieve this, government needs the input of people such as yourselves
experts in your own fields, professionals who are dedicated to
this area and voluntary people who are prepared to dedicate their time
for the benefit of those who are most vulnerable in our society.
This is why the outcome of this seminar is important to us all and I
therefore wish you every success.