Wednesday 21 October, 2020

Guidance officers to go to Industrial Court over non-payment of funds

Guidance officers and counsellors have taken concerns regarding the non-payments of outstanding payments to the Industrial Court’s Special Tribunal after they said requests made to government have fallen on deaf ears.

Second Vice President of the Public Services Association, Ian Murray, said that some guidance officers have not had their communication allowances paid since 2008, while travelling allowances remain unpaid as far back as 2015.

Communication allowance involves the use of a mobile phone as officers are required to be mobile and accessible while carrying out their duties.

Speaking to LoopTT, Murray said that the Ministry of Education has also hired contracted guidance counsellors who are not being paid on time.

“The matter has gone to the Industrial Court because after numerous letters and requests, we got no response from the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Finance, so the matter has been forwarded to the Special Tribunal, and we await them to give us a date (for the hearing).”

“(The Ministry) hired a cadre of contract officers and they are not being paid on time. Sometimes they are paid in the middle of the month…there are a lot of issues. There is also a vehicle upkeep because they are required and scheduled to travel.”

“It’s unacceptable, that’s why we have taken this action.  We tried meeting with the ministry but there were only excuses, they gave us a run-around,” he said.

Education Minister Anthony Garcia said however that there was no shortage of payments, and that some contract workers had simply reached the end of their contracts.

Speaking over the weekend, Garcia said that a note has been submitted to the Minister of Public Administration which has been returned to the Ministry and is now before Cabinet so those persons can be placed on fixed-term three-year contracts.

Murray said that the number of guidance officers, which was set out decades ago, needs to be increased in order to match the growing number of schools.

Educational guidance officers provide a range of services throughout primary and secondary schools in Trinidad and Tobago.

These services are offered by the Student Support Services (SSS) Division of the Ministry of Education with the aim of increasing student success by providing support.

Services offered by guidance officers include:

- Counselling and specialised intervention strategies for students on extended suspension and other at-risk students.

- Specialised services for students with moderate or severe special educational needs.

- Social work services for students with psychosocial and behavioural difficulties at selected primary schools in each Educational District.

- Early intervention, diagnosis and remediation for selected primary schools in each Education District.

- Guidance and counselling services include counselling, referral and consulting.  Social work services include case work and intervention, counselling, referral and consulting, home visits and parent education, social justice and court preparation and processing support, psychological skills development, crisis management and intervention training, and community outreach and linkage.

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