Addressing the media for the first time as Minister of Social Development and Seniors, Tinée Furbert announced plans “that we will replace the outdated Child Care Placement Board by a Children’s Commission, whose remit will be to advocate for the children in care”.

Speaking at a joint news conference on Wednesday (November 18) on her Ministry’s Throne Speech initiatives, she said: “The Commission will comprise of representatives from the Department of Child and Family Services; the Ministry of Health; Child and Adolescence Services and the Ministry of Education.

“Currently there is no mechanism for children who present multi-disciplinary challenges that are outside of the scope of any individual government department or agency; the Commission will enable a concerted effort in facilitating the wellbeing of the child,” said Ms Furbert.

As an Occupational Therapist by trade, she said she has “seen the needs of our people firsthand when it comes to healthcare and social issues”.

“There is no greater honour for me than to be able to use the skills and knowledge learned throughout my career to bring about change where it is needed most.

“To fill the void that exists when young people “age out” of government care, this Government will establish Independent Living Coordinators which will be a part of a transitional service. The Independent Living Coordinators will create individual plans for our young people coming out of care, to provide affordable housing options, post-secondary education and career and financial advice as well as access to physical and mental healthcare,” she added.

“We must not allow our young people to fall through the cracks; we must offer them the tools they need to make smart and informed choices that stand them in good stead for the future.

“This Government is dedicated to helping young people achieve their full potential and we are committed to providing services and programmes that are consumer-centered, which address social and emotional needs and foster self-determination and self-sufficiency.”

The Minister also noted that a National Seniors Strategy will be developed “in collaboration with government and community stakeholders who work with seniors”.

“The National Seniors Strategy will also address dementia care and a prevention plan for seniors’ abuse,” said Ms Furbert.

“The strategies will be designed to address the following goals: planning and accountability, workforce development and education, employment and financial security, healthy ageing, ageing at home, long term care, accessible transportation, safety and security, intergenerational and inclusive communities.

“Ageing with dignity and supporting families who devote themselves to caring for their senior loved ones is a community effort.”

Meanwhile, newly appointed Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports, Dr Ernest Peets pledged to create a National Youth Policy and a National Cultural Heritage Policy in the legislative year ahead.

“Bermuda’s future must be built by those to whom it most belongs,” he said.

He also pledged to create a National Youth Policy and a National Cultural Heritage Policy, to “embrace and celebrate one history and a shared cultural identity”, through “significant community engagement”, including cultural groups and artists.

“The pandemic has made this an unusual year for all of us,” said Dr Peets.

“For the first time in our history, we’ve had to engage and to connect in ways that are at times unfamiliar to us.

“As such, we’ve had to make adjustments – but it’s during this time of uncertainty that our cultural and national pride has shone through.

“This is a Ministry which respects and values our young people’s contributions to society,” he added.

“The development of a National Youth Policy will seek to foster direct engagement with our youth in the creation of government policy. This has been an extraordinary year of youth mobilization and social action, and that hasn’t been lost on this Government or this Ministry.

“There is immense value in engaging with our young people; as such, it is important that we harness their energy, creativity, ideas and passion about the causes that are most important to them.

“Working in partnership with other key stakeholders it’s our goal to involve our youth in the formation of a Youth Policy that supports and empowers this most critical segment of our community.

“Programs that serve this population will be reviewed for effective delivery and revised as necessary to inspire a generation of informed and independent thinkers.

“Although Bermuda is a country that encompasses many cultures, the National Cultural Heritage Policy will embrace and celebrate one history and a shared cultural identity,” said Dr Peets.

“This policy will present the Ministry’s vision for preserving, celebrating and educating our community about Bermuda’s rich cultural heritage.

“The National Cultural Heritage Policy for Bermuda will be a product of significant community engagement – including feedback from cultural organisations, artists, and other creatives.

“It is our hope that this document will serve as an evolving blueprint for the deliberate integration of culture into each and every aspect of Bermudian life.”

Other aspects contained in this policy “include the promotion and development of culture and the arts, and the preservation and protection of our cultural heritage”.

“We look forward to engaging with the community as we further the development of this critical policy,” he said.

“We are very excited about the work being done to create these strategies and the engagement has already begun.

“I hope to provide future updates on their progress.

“Going forward we will continue supporting those popular and critical cultural, artistic, sports and youth programs, events and initiatives sponsored by the Ministry that the public have come to expect from us.”

In closing, the new Government Leader in the Senate issued a reminder “that culture is the backbone of society”.

“It is the glue that binds us together and informs our identity as individuals and as a community.

“This Ministry has a tremendous role to play in the fabric of Bermudian society. And I’m very proud to be part of this team as we continue to develop and celebrate our people in a multitude of ways.”