St Helena Online

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One in ten jobs affected as Castle sheds services, says report

The number of government workers on St Helena is set to be cut by nearly a tenth over the next year, according to the report on the island’s annual aid negotiations.

It says the headcount is to be reduced from 820 to 749 as the island public service is slimmed down.

But it appears many of those jobs will move over to the private sector as The Castle continues “divesting” services such as electricity and water.

The report says the aid mission noted progress in creating a leaner public service. “Most notably, this has included reducing the number of directorates from 9 to 5, as well as reducing headcount from 924 in 2011 to 820 in 2013, towards the target of 749 next year.”

In November 2012, 58 finance staff were told their jobs were “under review” and some might be made redundant.

A new limited company, St Helena Connect, is due to take over electricity and water supplies on 1 April 2013.

The health directorate is set to hand its cleaning services to a private company at the same time.

The aid report says: “We look forward to hearing about divestment plans for other areas such as crown estates maintenance, ICT support, vehicle maintenance and pest control.”

In the health directorate, it says: “We note the successful divestment of laundry (since 2010) and look forward to discussing further efficiency gains, in particular catering, cleaning and home help, pest control and garbage disposal.”

It says advisers want clarity on the full implication for staffing, costs and standards. “Such information should be provided to the public through clear and transparent progress documentation,” it says.

Fragile school improvements ‘must be treated with care’

Massive improvements in St Helena’s primary schools have beaten ambitious targets – but the figures must be treated with caution because of the small number of children involved, warns the island’s 2013 aid report.

Exam results for 16-year-olds have also seen radical improvement, though performance is still well below the minimum standard expected in the UK.

The report, issued at the end of the annual visit by UK aid negotiators, says: “Data indicates good progress in education this year, though we have to be careful about sample size and the fragility of the improvement suggested.

“Primary education results have exceeded targets, with over 60% of children reaching Key Stage II targets in English and science and a dramatic improvement in maths, from 26% to 55%.

“Improvements are also apparent at secondary level with 19% of students attaining a minimum of 5 GCSEs (A-C) in 2012, up from a zero rate in 2011, but with much work still to do.”

The previous aid mission agreed three years’ funding to improve education because of its role boosting economic development.

The latest report says: “We are pleased to note that this investment already appears to be showing positive results at both primary and secondary levels, though further improvements are required and boys’ attainment continues to be a concern, especially in literacy.

“More technical assistance across a range of educational areas has been agreed this year, including modern languages, science, early years and raising attainment, with additional special educational needs assistance being considered.

“Meanwhile, SHG has lowered the age at which young children can access nursery school and agreement has been reached with Basil Read [the airport contractor] to enable school leavers to continue to pursue exams whilst working.”

Further talks are expected on a proposals to reorganise schools, a new funding formula for staffing, and teacher training.

SHAPE praised as advisers cite unknown scale of disability

The role of St Helena’s disability charity, SHAPE, has been singled out for praise by UK aid advisers.

But they say help for disabled people is “fragmented”, with too little knowledge about the problems people are coping with.

The success of SHAPE – short for St Helena Active Participation in Enterprise – shows the role civil society groups can play, says the report on the annual Development Assistance Planning Mission, which looks at the challenges facing the island.

SHAPE trains disabled people in craft skills at the old school building in Sandy Bay, and provides them with work such as making and selling jewellery. It has also set up a recycling service.

The aid advisers’ report, agreed with St Helena Government negotiators, notes a need for “a thorough analysis of the number of disabled people on island and types of disability/capability issues, linked to levels of disadvantage and vulnerability.”

The findings “will undoubtedly impact” on health and social services planning, it says.

It also says a contract for SHAPE’s services should be continued.

It adds: “Whilst provision for disabled people remains fragmented, we welcome SHG’s recognition of SHAPE as a front-line service delivery agency.”

The government also needs to consult on concerns in the community, it says.

SHG is set to policy on managing disability.

Money on offer to tackle sex crimes against children

Growing concern about sex offending on St Helena – especially against children – could lead to the island being given extra money to confront the issue.

And a coded warning of a possible increase in attacks appears to be given in the report on the latest aid mission to St Helena.

It says: “Despite some improvement in this area in recent years, the increase in development activity may provide further challenges about which St Helena Government will need to be vigilant.”

The wording reflects concerns that have been voiced as the airport construction project brings overseas workers and returning Saints to the island.

Reports have been received in London and Jamestown of a deep-rooted culture of child abuse – though they did not say whether it was widespread.

On 28 January 2013, a woman was arrested on suspicion of child abuse in the St Paul’s area. She was charged, and released on conditional bail with help of a  Bondsman at a special court hearing.

In July 2012, St Helena Government revealed that it was considering setting up a sex offenders’ register as part of its efforts to crack down on sex crimes, alongside counselling to help offenders avoid committing further crimes.

The disclosure came after the UK Government’s White Paper on overseas territories offered to help provide specialist treatment for sex criminals.

It said small territories often lacked facilities to treat people who needed such help.

The island’s human rights plan also called for more action.

At the time, prison visitor Catherine Turner wrote of the despair she witnessed.

“For the prison officers,” she said, “it is demoralizing knowing that they could do the very best job, but it would have little effect because in a few years’ time another two-year-old will be abused.

“But for the one person who knows that he will spend five years in jail and then is almost 100% likely to re-offend within a year of release, it is in effect a life sentence.

“While it is easy to blame the perpetrators, often they themselves have been victims all their lives.”

Another expert has told St Helena Online that it can take six generations to erase the effects of past child abuse.

The report on the annual UK aid negotiations on St Helena says: “We welcome the recent appointment of a Champion for Children and look forward to supporting further child safeguarding work in 2013/14.

“We also look forward to the Department of Education and Employment review of child safeguarding procedures later this year and we would be willing to agree technical  assistance to fund sex offender training needs.”

The report also noted improvements in help for vulnerable people.

“We are pleased to see that the post of Senior Social Services Manager,
agreed at last year’s DAPM, has recently been taken up and hope to see the
Social Work Trainer post taken up shortly.

“We look forward to the development of a Strategic Framework for Integrated Social Services to support vulnerable individuals and families, with a focus on disability (including integrating the disabled into the workplace) elderly care, learning difficulties, safeguarding of children and other vulnerable groups.”

Diabetes target ‘unlikely to be met’

Mixed results have been reported on efforts to tackle St Helena’s massive diabetes problem – one of the worst in the world.

Health workers have succeeded in performing annual checks on registered diabetics, according to the aide memoire issued at the end of the annual Development Assistance Planning Mission from the UK.

But it adds: “The 51% target for patients with blood glucose levels under control is unlikely to be achieved.”

The last figures published – in 2011 – showed there were 570 diagnosed diabetics on the island, most with the type 2 version of the condition.

Hypertension was also a serious issue.

Diabetic clinics had been set up on the island, led by a specialist nurse, though at one point the service came under strain because of staff shortages.

The condition is linked to obesity and poor diet, as well as genetic factors.

The health service had seen “generally good” performance in dealing with non-communicable diseases.

Some UK funding from the Health Link 3 project, which ended in March 2012, had still not been spent. Agreement was needed on how it should be used, said the aide memoire.

 

 

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