The established welfare agencies are more critical at this period of economic hardship brought on by retrenchment in some cases.
Parliamentary representative for The City Colonel Jeffrey Bostic made this observation today in the House of Assembly while speaking on a supplementary vote for $4.4 million for the Welfare Department.
Bostic said: “At this time of economic hardship there is an increase in the number of persons seeking assistance. At the constituency level we have seen significant increases in the number of persons coming for support for utility bills like electricity. The department itself has noticed the increase. Assistance has been provided but obviously not enough to cover the great demand. We have seen the Welfare Department indebted to the Barbados Light & Power Co. Ltd. There has been an increase in food vouchers and if you go and visit the feeding centres like the Salvation Army you will see a marked increase in the number of persons seeking that assistance.
“We see the closure of baths in The City at a time when a number of persons in the community have had their water supply disconnected because of their inability to pay. Many persons have resorted to using whatever facility is available, standpipes for example. At this time this is one area that the Government should reconsider,” Bostic said.
The City MP called for more transparency and equity in the provision of assistance at this period of economic hardship.
“I know what I am talking about. I would like the established agencies to be used in the delivery of welfare assistance. I am saying that means testing may become more widely used. However, means testing has to be conducted by persons who have the skill to conduct the test. Meaning those persons who are trained in social work. The same way that we are going to have a Revenue Authority, I believe the time has come to look after the very needy persons who need the assistance most and not those who want it,” Bostic argued.
He suggested that there should be a co-ordinating committee which ropes in such reputable organizations as the Salvation Army and non-governmental organisations in the delivery of assistance.
Bostic maintained that constituency councils should be “taken off the map” in the delivery of assistance to the poor.
He suggested that funding should be provided to such well established agencies as the National Assistance Board and the Welfare Department.
“I believe that persons who live in Cats Castle and the Greenfields will have more confidence that they will receive assistance. In this way we will have more transparency and equity. This is something that we need to look at. The reality is this – the demands for assistance on the Welfare Department at this time will always be greater than the resources available at the department. I believe that the time has come to remove the political shackles and replace it with a human face,” Bostic said.