PHILIPSBURG--Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA Omar Ottley told Members of Parliament (MPs) on Tuesday, as he returned to answer questions posed during the first round of questions, that the ministry is working on plans to address period poverty in schools and access to affordable child care/day care centres.
National Alliance (NA) MP Angelique Romou requested an update in regard to period poverty. She asked the minister why this topic was not included in the ministry’s draft 2023 budget.
Ottley explained that period poverty was not taken up in the budget due to the lack of concrete data. He said that since then, the VSA Ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS) had designed and disseminated a survey to all schools regarding period poverty. The survey will allow both ministries to comprehend the current situation on the island “and we will act and plan accordingly,” he said.
Ottley said the ministry has also reached out to Teen Times to help facilitate surveys and information gathered by the group. This information was sent to the ministry. The ministry is busy putting together a concrete plan and structure. “Since then we have also had contact with the wholesalers and this is going positively well,” he added.
He also addressed a question from NA MP George Pantophlet about the ministry’s effort to improve access to affordable child care/day care. Ottley said that in cooperation with the Ministry of Education a study was carried out last year regarding funding for day care centres. This was commissioned by the Department of Youth and carried out with funds from the trust fund and UNICEF.
He said the recommendation from this study was presented to both ministries and the ministers must decide on the recommendations and the way forward. “If funding of the day care centres will become a reality on St. Maarten, that will strengthen the day care centres and the access will be improved,” he added.
As far as the status of the early childhood development programmes, he said the two ministries are working on improving to the minimal standard. Key stakeholders will be trained in the new standards and will also be a part of the legislation.
He explained that in addition to the increase to the minimum wage, the ministry is also working on the necessary legislation to increase the financial aids amount. The ministry is currently awaiting the results of the census to ensure an assessment of the cost of living.