Georgetown, GINA, August 17, 2016
The final report of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the death of two siblings, Anthonio and Joshua George, who perished in the fire at the Drop-In-Centre on Hadfield Street in July, will now serve as a guide to the Ministry of Social Protection towards ensuring that there are fewer chances of recurrences.
A preliminary report of the COI conducted by Commissioner, Retired Colonel Windee Algernon was handed over to the Ministry of Social Protection and Minister of State Joseph Harmon. In the final report, a number of recommendations were outlined for the Social Protection Ministry to take into consideration in moving forward.
At the time of the incident, the Drop-In-Centre was overcrowded with 31 children and two social services assistants.
The COI also found that there was inadequate staff scheduled to work on the night of the tragedy which was a direct contravention of the Minimum Operational Standards and Regulations. These standards state that homes such as the Drop-In-Centre must maintain adequate staff on duty that will fulfill the agreed staff/child guideline ratio of a minimum of six social service assistants to meet the needs of the number of children housed at the centre at the time.
The fire on the night of July 7 was triggered by a defective electrical point with exposed wires on the eastern wall of the girls’ dormitory causing the fire to travel through the electrical conduits in the ceiling of the building.
Crisis guidelines were adequately provided, but the house management was not familiar with them which subsequently led to the failure of fire drills and other forms of rehearsals to respond to emergencies. The Drop-In-Centre was also found not to be in compliance with fire regulations; failing to have fire escapes, extinguishers, and fire blankets among other emergency requirements.
President David Granger had requested the COI to find out whether there had been any person or persons responsible for the incident due to negligence or the abandoning of their post while having the children under their supervision.
The COI recommends that the Social Protection Ministry must focus on improving the child care system. This would call for a holistic restructuring and providing responsible and effective child care at all levels, taking into consideration the sensitive nature of cases that expose children to neglect and other forms of mistreatment.