Families in Barbados are under threat, Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley has charged.
And blaming much of it on economic circumstance, he called on Government to do everything possible to make financial resources available to help those most in need.
Atherley said the dangers facing family life in Barbados also included “an alternative lifestyle movement” and a significantly diminished role of grandparents.
“The family is under threat in Barbados. I want to suggest that is a position which is arguably put but it is my view that the family in Barbados is under threat,” insisted Atherley.
“A lot of what threatens family life in Barbados is to be located as a source in the economic experience that we have gone through in the past several years and which we are still passing through,” he said.
He added: “A lot of it, I imagine, is to be attributed to the socio-cultural context of life in these days with all of what we are exposed to as a people. But then there is also a dynamic which I consider to be quite sinister and that is the values deconstruction agenda of the alternative lifestyle movement. And we have to be acutely aware of this as a nation if we are to preserve family as an institution and family life as we have always desired it so to be.”
Atherley’s comments came during his contribution to debate in Parliament on Tuesday on amendments to the Family Law Bill 2019, relating to miscellaneous amendments – dissolution of marriages and validation and indemnification.
He suggested that there was a need for studies to be carried out in order to know the impact a divorce or separation of parents was having on children.
Adding that many social ills facing the society and problems being experienced in the schools started at the level of the home, Atherley said a formal study would allow for better understanding of the problem and better response rather than dealing with just “symptoms” of the ailment.
The Opposition Leader called on fellow lawmakers to put “sufficient and deliberate efforts” into training people in the role of parenting, saying there was a need for more formal parental instruction.
“The role of that grandmother, that role of influential persons in the extended family has diminished significantly in Barbados. We have people today, in multiple numbers, who are parents before they stop being children, and they do not have recourse to their parental elders to help them. This society suffers as a result of that,” he argued.
Pointing out that raising children was an important part of the task of building a community and a nation, Atherley said the country could not afford to spare any resource in addressing issues relating to the training of parents.
“If this does not happen family life suffers, societies deteriorate and it is ultimately the nation’s loss,” he said.
The St Michael West MP also called for a “minimum level of income” to be made available to all households in Barbados.
“This is a very noble undertaking, perhaps difficult to pursue or even achieve in the current BERT era, but it is an undertaking to which I would implore the Government should stay seriously committed and one upon which they should remain seriously focused,” he said, adding that the stresses of family life could be easily compounded by economic factors.
“These are very serious things, and the commitment to ensure that there is a minimum level income below which families in Barbados should not fall is a significant commitment which I urge the Government to strain every sinew to ensure that becomes a reality in the soonest possible time,” said Atherley.
He also called on Government to make it mandatory for larger companies to establish day care facilities for children of their employees.
Meanwhile, Minister of Empowerment and Elder Affairs Cynthia Forde pointed to a need for more support systems for couples.
“I think as a country we need to look more at forms of mediation where couples can come together in the early stages [leading up to] marriage [and] after the marriage,” she said.
She also issued a call for teachers to have “special training” to be able to identify signs in children who are affected by divorce or separation of parents so they can get early intervention.