Response to Opposition Leader Cannonier on Dept of Child and Family Services

The comments today by Opposition Leader Craig Cannonier reflect the hypocritical and cynical approach the OBA have taken towards the island's most vulnerable children.

Under the former administration in 2014-2015, there were two successive years of budget cuts in all programmes.
The department lost the high-risk intervention team due to hiring freezes and the employees had to absorb additional programmes such as mediation, and dealing with more aggressive residents at the Residential Treatment Centre.
All staff were stretched to meet the demands of the department as a whole.

Ongoing cuts impacted deliverables, morale, health, safety and other critical areas.

The children were impacted by the lack of repairs, upgrades and upkeep to the facilities.

There is much work to be done at DCFS. There is no denying that. It must not be forgotten, however, that under both the Cannonier and Dunkley regimes, funding for DCFS and for many necessary helping agencies were slashed while millions were diverted towards the America's Cup.

It must not be forgotten that it was this PLP government that toughened sentences for sexual offenders, expanded the definition of grooming to include 21st century communications tools such as social media and launched Bermuda's first Sexual Offenders List.

Any weak leader, any cynical, desperate politician can exploit the plight of our most vulnerable children for political gain.
Any weak leader, any hypocritical politician can attack those making progress on tough, systemic problems, however it cannot not be forgotten that when they had the chance, they chose to do nothing and in fact made situations worse.

There is a lot of work to be done, but unlike the previous administration, we are taking the necessary steps to rectify issues found and are not only making steady progress in addressing them but improving the system we have.