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Blackett: Welfare Department doing its part
Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, Steven Blackett, has chided members of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party for suggesting that Government is allowing indigent Barbadians to fall through the cracks.
During continued Budget debate in the House of Assembly yesterday morning, the Member of Parliament for St. Michael Central remarked that the Budget delivered on Tuesday was not only comprehensive, wide-ranging and sector-centered, but sought to make provisions for those most in need.
“Just on Tuesday, the Minister of Finance provided the Welfare Department with a one off grant of $5 million to assist the unemployed, the disabled, the aged and the indigent with the payment of electricity bills and this is an addition of course to all that we are now offering at the agency and the other agencies that fall within our purview,” Blackett stated.
“I will be sitting down very shortly with the permanent secretary, the chief welfare officer, her deputy and the Constituency Empowerment Department, to formalise how we will deliver this new assistance to the public, as we roll it out,” the Minister added.
While giving a detailed analysis of monies allotted so far to those in need via the Welfare Department this year, he further dismissed claims by the Opposition that people are falling through the cracks and suffering more today than they have ever suffered before.
“The relief in kind offered by the Welfare Department since the beginning of this financial year from April, May and June, we have actually delivered some $132, 645 dollars in food vouchers to the public. In spectacles, $5 600 dollars, in clothing $7 921 dollars, hearing aids even $700 dollars, in burials- we assist with burials, $11 584 dollars, in water rates $30 984 dollars, electricity $188 553 dollars, in NHC rents, $3 680 dollars to 38 residents and in private rentals some $268 610 dollars to 276 recipients. In UWI fees we have actually paid $2 820 and in our Welfare to Work Programme we have granted some $6 814 dollars,” Blackett revealed.
“This is clear evidence that nobody is falling through the cracks. There will always be people who will slip by because all of the systems don’t always work and always work efficiently. But by and large, Barbadians know exactly if they are confronted with a situation that is beyond them, that there is an agency which they can turn to-the Welfare Department,” he suggested.
Blackett stressed that he has “reasoned with Welfare Department staff,” arriving at the conclusion that they must together hold people’s hand and give them a hands up in society, helping them through this difficult finical period.
“That is a firm decision that we have made between ourselves, the management of the Ministry and certainly the Welfare Department,” he said.
To further aid those in need, Minister Blackett also stressed that his Ministry is also exploring a mechanism whereby mothers whose children’s fathers are ordered to pay support through the court, can collect some kind of monetary support when they visit the court, as enunciated by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart earlier this year. (RSM)