The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security is moving towards creating a Social Work Act which would allow for the licensing of those employed in the field locally. Perhaps this initiative could be the catalyst for a number of outstanding others to professionalise and boost services offered to consumers.
For starters, there is an absolute need to also license counsellors, especially since, for too long, all sorts have been running around as counsellors, creating significant harm.
I had previously written about two different instances of individuals being pushed to suicide by such quacks; and I do know of a Guyanese mental health expert living in Florida who would be willing to lend her expertise in setting up such protocols, since the International Registry of Counselor Education Programs has tasked her with responsibility for the Caribbean.
As well, finally, the 1930s Mental Health Act is been updated. May I suggest that before it moves to finality, all stakeholders be provided with opportunities to review and make suggestions, especially since so much has happened on the mental health landscape since the 1930s.
Also, the new Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) legislation currently being drafted should include a mental health component to prevent workplace discrimination against disabled persons; address issues like suicide ideation, stress and anxiety; and mandate designation of workplaces as abuse- and violence-free locations that provide necessary assistance to employees in these regards.
As well, child labour needs to be included, along with trafficking for coerced, exploitative labour, with victims who are often physically and sexually abused.
In regard to OSH, labour inspectors should be trained and mandated to initiate sanctions once transgressions are found, which is currently not the case. It becomes a time-dragging, tedious exercise in frustration that other personnel have to be sought to enforce sanctions.
And while the line minister has vowed to implement substantial fines, punitive consequences need to be significant enough to act as deterrence, while enabling timely and standardised enforcement that could possibly include mandatory training each time there are transgressions, and an evaluation system that deducts points for such transgressions.
Meanwhile, the current practice of having legal and medical practitioners respectively deal with complaints of malpractice will always be viewed as prejudicial to the consumer (victim), especially since these mechanisms generally leave much to be desired.
Consequently, the woefully ineffective Legal and Medical Practitioners Acts respectively also need to be updated to, among things, mandate timely and open investigation of all forms of malpractice on the one hand, and enable citizens to still be able to sue if not satisfied with decisions.
Finally, very much needed are clear laws and guidelines for consumers, who are left to the mercy of the public bureaucracy and private management, endless red tape and run-around, far too often ending in frustration, abuse and dehumanisation. Such laws and guidelines must place emphasis on safety, quality ratings, consumer-centric services that include empathy, mechanisms to address complaints in a timely and non-confrontational manner, and consumer’s legal redress.