Social Development Minister denies evicting Cerebral Palsy Society from National Enrichment Centre

Home*Cover Story*News

Social Development Minister denies evicting Cerebral Palsy Society from National Enrichment Centre

The National Enrichment Centre in Carlsen Field is not fit for occupation and Minister of Social Development and Family Services, Donna Cox, is now questioning who gave the head of the Cerebral Palsy Society permission to use the building.

She is also refuting claims by the Society’s head, Philip Metivier, that they were evicted from the National Enrichment Centre.

In her contribution to the budget debate on Tuesday, Cox said: “The first thing I’d like Mr Metivier to tell me, where he got the authority to utilise that building. Because the building is not fit for persons to be there. It’s under refurbishment. From August 3, 2022, to March 16, 2023, the ministry has works conducting the fire and safety works at the building. So it begs the question, how did he get in there?”

“Who gave him permission to use the building? That is not a building that you’re supposed to use. At this point in time, the works are ongoing and therefore no one should be there. That is a risk and it is a risk for children with disability.”

Cox said work on the building would be completed as soon as possible.

She said she would like Metivier to produce evidence of getting permission from the ministry’s permanent secretary.

Speaking to media, Metivier claimed his group was given access to the building between 2018/2019 by then Minister of Social Development and Family Services, Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn.

“In 2020 they relaxed it (restrictions) so activities could go on so they gave us a place in Couva, that’s the child development centre, so we were using that. Then, I think, early this year they said alright allyuh could go back to the centre now, it’s ready. It’s in working condition,” he claimed.

The building was used to provide free therapy to cerebral palsy children from as far as Guayaguyare. This is facilitated by the Caribbean Kids Family Therapy Organisation, free of charge to the society.

Metivier said last week, his group was given a week to vacate the premises without an official explanation. He said all he got was a verbal explanation from the facilities manager that the building was going to undergo some repairs.

He said the move left some 30 members, one as young as three years old, unable to complete their ten-week therapy schedule.

He now wants the minister to get accommodation for them in the interim, so that they can continue doing therapies until the building is finished.

“The National Enrichment Centre was for people with disabilities.”

He said if the members lost out on their next five weeks of therapy, it could undo up to ten years of work put in by the patients and their parents.

The issue was initially raised by Chaguanas East MP, Vandana Mohit in Parliament on Monday.

She called on the Prime Minister and Minister of Social Development and Family Services to intervene and allow the Cerebral Palsy Society to continue operations at the Carlsen Field building until alternative arrangements could be made to house them.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Cox found it curious that Metivier was speaking to the media and not to her about the matter and described his actions as mischief.