They may not have secured a seat in the House of Assembly but caretaker candidates for both the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and Democratic Labour Party (DLP) are increasingly being called upon to help out constituents financially.
Barbados TODAY spoke with several caretakers who said they are finding it difficult to service the needs of residents with genuine hardships who turn up at their workplaces and homes, complaining about being unable to make ends meet.
Former parliamentary representative for St Michael South Central, David Gill, who unsuccessfully represented the BLP in the 2013 general election, said although he has not been in the House of Assembly since 2003, constituents continue to turn to him for assistance “and you cannot turn them away”.
“Once people can identify you with a party as a candidate, as a senator, as a sitting member, as a former member, you cannot get away from them. They see you as someone in whom they can confide and approach for assistance until you say goodbye to politics . . . . People are therefore looking to you for assistance in one form or another and it does not have to be monetary. Between the general election and now I have done all sorts of services for the people,” he said.
“Those people whom you think would be most able to handle their day-to-day problems are now feeling the brunt of Government’s austerity measures,” Gill added, noting that young people in their 20s and 30s were telling him on a daily basis that they had lost all hope and found it difficult to face challenges.
Meanwhile, expressing similar sentiments, BLP caretaker for St Philip North, Indar Weir, said people in the constituency were mainly concerned with finding employment and he has been inundated with such requests.
Identifying some of the challenges confronting the young people in the area, Weir said: “One of the issues that is high ranking is child support. I have had mainly fathers coming to me and asking for support to avoid incarceration or to take care of pregnant girlfriends. There are also people who say they cannot afford to buy food. Those are not in any alarming numbers, but they are some who are seeking assistance to buy groceries and paying utilities. The ones seeking employment are usually concerned that they will default on their bills and therefore they would like to find something to do immediately.”
“You know for sure when people are suffering. However, as a caretaker you have to draw on your own resources, however limited. In many cases you do not have any resources to draw on, but you draw on social contacts to get as much as an interview for the person,” he added.
Weir said that 90 per cent of those who came for assistance were experiencing genuine hardships.
One other Opposition candidate who asked not to be identified told Barbados TODAY that he found it difficult to go into the constituency because the requests were overwhelming.
“I recognize that the majority of the requests for assistance are genuine, but I do not have the financial resources to satisfy the requests,” he said.
At least two of those candidates who ran on the DLP ticket in the last general election told similar stories to Barbados TODAY.
Government Senator Patrick Todd said he was trying his best to assist in whatever way he could.
“I try to identify the most needy cases. Many people may have needs, but they are also a very proud people and would not like the whole of Barbados know about their issues. I therefore respect that and point them in the right direction,” he said.
Meanwhile, Senator Verla De Peiza, who unsuccessfully contested the Christ Church West seat in the 2013 general election on a DLP ticket, said the constituents’ expectation of assistance, even from caretakers, was par for the course, although she noted that she did not get many requests for financial assistance.
“You determine to give service however the service is required. What I do is seek donations that I can distribute . . . . I do not know how different it is from being the actual Member of Parliament, having not been one, but I maintain a presence in the constituency. My office is still open, I still walk the constituency, I still attend functions. I do not know how different it is from being the representative minus the remuneration but then I never entered politics for the remuneration,” she said.