Households across St. Michael East have returned to conditions where the use of oil lamps is widespread and drawing water from the community standpipe is common.
That was the contention today of parliamentary representative for the constituency, Trevor Prescod, when he told Barbados TODAY that as many as 20 households in the Licorish Village area alone have had their electricity supply disconnected because the Welfare Department has failed to pay the bills as promised during the recent general election.
Prescod stated that in some cases the electricity bills were as high as $1,000, a sum beyond the financial resources of these households where no one is gainfully employed.
The outspoken parliamentarian pointed out that Ivy, St. Michael, one of the most densely populated areas of the constituency, was also affected by disconnections of utilities.
Prescod said that in some cases water and electricity supplies were being disconnected at some poor people’s homes. The St. Michael MP recalled that while passing through Martinique Road, St. Michael, he was told by a young householder that his electricity and water could soon be disconnected because he could not find gainful employment.
“Prior to the general election on February 21,” Prescod said, “these senior citizens and poor people were promised by the Welfare Department that their utility bills would be paid by that department. Unfortunately, the Welfare Department never followed through with the promise. Subsequently, the Barbados Light & Power disconnected the services.”
Prescod pointed out that before the life of the Constituency Councils came to an end, the council members were taking the bills from the senior citizens and handing them over to the Welfare Department.
“I do not know what is the reason for the non payment of the bills by the Welfare Department as promised, but officers at that department are insisting that all those persons who find themselves in straightened circumstances should come directly to the Welfare Department for an evaluation of their situation.
“This is very unfortunate because you have a house with seniors and young children where members of the family are unemployed or underemployed. Where are these people going to find the money to pay utility bills?” Prescod asked.
He recalled a case where an unemployed mother asked for a hamper to feed her children and the Welfare Officer denied her request.
The St. Michael East MP said: My concern is what is happening in St. Michael East. Is this happening exclusively in St. Michael East or is this the trend across urban Barbados. I need a response from the minister responsible for the Welfare Department.”
Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, Steve Blackett, could not be reached for a comment.†(NC)