KUCHING, Nov 13 — The federal Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development will strengthen the existing standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent deaths of children left behind in vehicles.

Its minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said she is aware of several cases in the past months concerning the deaths of children after being left behind in vehicles for long hours.

“We need to intensify the SOPs to make sure childcare centre operators contact the parents immediately if their child has not arrived at the centre.

“This is so that the parents are aware of the matter within a short period of time rather than having the child left behind in a vehicle for seven or eight hours,” she said after gracing a Sarawak media night hosted by her ministry at a local hotel here last night.

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Nancy said although she has been under pressure to take action to address such cases, she can only take measures that are under the purview of her ministry.

“There have been quite a few proposals submitted on what we should be doing but I am not able to implement some of the ideas because they are under other ministries. For example, some quarters are arguing for the removal of tinted vehicle windows,” she added.

Nancy said another problem faced is the lack of enforcement of the existing SOPs and therefore, her ministry will start conducting surprise visits to childcare centres to ensure compliance to the relevant regulations.

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Moreover, Nancy said the Child Development Department has been established on September 1 but it can only be fully functional as a standalone department by 2026. Currently, the department is still operating under the Social Welfare Department.

Noting that the new department is dedicated to look after the welfare of children, she said 169 vacancies have been advertised so far and about 11,000 applications have been received.

Another factor that the new department can only be fully functional by 2026 is the need for relevant laws to be amended first, she added.

“We need to amend the relevant laws because currently, the new department is under the Social Welfare Department. This is not right because a department is operating under another department but it will remain like this for the time being until the laws are amended.”

Meanwhile, when commenting on the tribunal for anti-sexual harassment, Nancy hoped the tribunal will be operational by the end of the year once 20 positions have been filled, with the assistance provided by the federal Attorney-General’s office.

“I have also officially requested to the Attorney-General’s office for one representative each from Sabah and Sarawak to be appointed to serve at the tribunal in easing the management of cases related to Sabah and Sarawak,” she said, adding the tribunal will be based in Kuala Lumpur.

Earlier in her speech, Nancy said the federal government will continue to advocate for women empowerment to take part in economic activities, as well as promoting cervical cancer screening and subsidised mammogram test programmes. — Borneo Post Online