Dubai:Following the directives of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council, to enhance child protection programmes, the Community Development Authority (CDA) announced a unified hotline to provide community members with a 24-hour channel to report cases of abuse, neglect and violence against children.
The hotline will help ensure immediate follow-up of cases with clear procedures and reporting of abuse. The initiative assumes significance in light of the prevailing distance education policy and the current circumstances keeping children away from educational and health institutions.
24/7 hotline: 800988
CDA explained that the decision to unify the hotline was made after several meetings with stakeholders in Dubai aimed at improving child protection efforts in the emirate. During the meetings, stakeholders discussed the current reporting procedures that help in decreasing child abuse cases, the efficiency of systems being used and the responsibilities of concerned entities in handling the reports. Following the discussions, a new plan of action for child protection was adopted.
Through the new system, CDA will receive all reports through its 24/7 hotline (800988). Subsequently, a CDA official will evaluate the cases according to their severity. Each case will be assigned to one of its child protection specialists who would then conduct field visits and take appropriate action in coordination with the concerned entities.
CDA will handle the cases in coordination with the Dubai Police GHQ, Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, Personal Status Court, Disciplinary Court, Public Prosecution and Juvenile Prosecution based on the nature and level of abuse.
CDA cited Article 42 of the UAE Child Rights Law ‘Wadeema’ which stipulates that teachers, physicians, social care specialists, or those required to protect, educate or take care of children, are obligated to report any case of child abuse. Furthermore, Article 44 of the law protects the identity of informants, witnesses and involved parties, unless given with consent. CDA added that this provision enhances child rights protection and encourages community members to report any case of abuse.
Integrated database for monitoring and following-up cases
CDA emphasised that the integrated hotline will contribute to the establishment of a centralised database in Dubai for monitoring and following up on cases of abuse. Prior to the new hotline, reports were received from various authorities in Dubai, either through the CDA, the Dubai Police or the Women and Children Care Foundation, making it difficult to monitor the situation of the children.
CDA also stated that it began monitoring incoming communications early this year, which will be followed up periodically until the situation in the family stabilises and the best protection for the child is ensured in an environment that supports proper growth and development.
In addition to adequately monitoring the situation that ensures the best interests of the child, an integrated database for monitoring cases of abuse contributes to identifying new measures and procedures to reduce child abuse cases, exploitation and neglect, enhancing the child’s health and psychological and physical integrity. It also facilitates the appropriate follow up required for some cases of abuse.
Highly trained employees
Several qualified and trained employees of the Authority are working 24/7 to receive reports of abuse. The staff have knowledge of the Child Rights Law and are trained on how to receive the reports and maintain the confidentiality of the person who reported the case. They are also responsible for evaluating incoming reports based on an assessment form to determine the severity of the situation and the procedures that must be followed immediately to deal with the communication as well as monitor the communication based on consolidated data. The employees speak fluent Arabic and English and have emotional intelligence skills to deal with the psychological state of the person who reported the case in the best possible way.
After receiving the report, social workers in the Authority and those who have obtained judicial authority to work in the field and intervene in cases of abuse are asked to go to directly study the case in the field. They are given instructions to verify the accuracy of the communication and address it accordingly in cooperation with concerned authorities such as Dubai Police, the Prosecution or the Women and Children Care Foundation, according to the nature of each situation.
Achieving a child-friendly environment
Ahmed Julfar, Director General of the CDA, said: “The unified hotline comes at a stage that requires simplifying the procedures and unifying the channels to ensure children’s protection in the current circumstances. It provides greater ease in the procedures for reporting cases of abuse and neglect. The hotline also guarantees confidentiality of the person reporting the incident and speeds up action on the abuse cases. It also encourages the detection of all cases of abuse and neglect. Additionally, the hotline will facilitate the monitoring of these cases in order to establish preventive measures and programmes to enhance the protection of children and ensure their development in an environment that supports their development.