Unit for Social Problem Analysis and Policy

Introduction

The Unit for Social Problem Analysis and Policy (USPAP) was launched by the Department of Behavioural Sciences in September 2006. The USPAP seeks to reduce the gap between research, policy development and implementation since much of social policy implementation is not based on evidence.

The USPAP is envisaged as an agency of the Department, which concentrates on addressing social problems in our region, and brings together academic research on social problems with social policy and implementation through partnering with and benefiting from the concrete experiences of public and civil society agencies. In this way, the University can build even stronger linkages with the community it serves.

Research

The USPAP conducted a study to investigate the experiences of students in the junior secondary school system in Trinidad, and to enquire into their perceptions/experiences of the root causes, consequences and outcomes of youth engagement in violence. A further objective was to develop social policy, in collaboration with stakeholders, to address the root problems exposed by the research.

It was found that there is a poverty complex involving low levels of material resources, parents’ flirting with illicit drugs, parental neglect, and physical, verbal and sexual abuse of children in the home, resulting in strong, negative, emotional responses from children, which gave rise to a hidden school curriculum. In these circumstances, and in the context of an increasingly robust market economy, youth violence becomes rampant.

Two publications resulted from the research project, one on “Troubled Children”, which was published by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, UWI, St. Augustine in April, 2009, and the other entitled “The Political Economy of Youth Violence”, which has been selected for publication by Critical Sociology, a journal of the American Sociological Association.

The USPAP also provided assistance to a non-governmental organization, “Red Initiatives”, in analyzing their data on HIV and risk-related behaviours among specific populations - men who have sex with men (MSM), commercial sex workers (CSW), drug addicts and street people.