The economic situation is taking its toll on Government’s Welfare Department.
Today, Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett acknowledged that recent financial cuts, instituted at the level of the Ministry of Finance, had affected the Department’s ability to issue welfare grants to the thousands who rely on it for daily assistance.
Blackett was contacted by Barbados TODAY after one affected mother complained bitterly to this newspaper that her welfare support had been cut in half.
The woman, who did not want to be identified, said she was previously receiving $180 a week for maintenance from Welfare but was now getting only $90.
The 28-year-old mother of four, who currently has a full-time job, said she was finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet and to support her children.
She also pointed out that there were several other women who live in her district who were faced with the same stressful reality on a daily and weekly basis, without any hope of immediate relief.
“I know a mother who used to receive $45 a week for each child, but who is now receiving only $45 a week to feed her three children, since the grant has been cut by the officials at the Ministry of Social Care,” she said.
“Can you imagine a mother feeding three children with a welfare grant of $45 a week at a time when the cost of food is going through the roof? In addition, the mother has to pay rent and buy clothes too. Some mothers are now facing eviction from their landlords for rent arrears,” she added.
The outspoken woman also asked: “How many food items could be bought with $50 or $75 for three or four children at a time when the cost of food continues to go through the roof?”
“Our financial position was bad when we were receiving $45 a week for each child so you can imagine what our position is now that the grant has been cut in half,” she said, adding that “some mothers are afraid to speak out because they fear victimisation.
“This Government announced the Child Support Fund with much fanfare but it never really got off the ground. You can ask any mother who turned up at the office to benefit from assistance from the fund,” she added.
When contacted, Minister Blackett confirmed that the Welfare Department had been affected by recent cuts, adding that it was a case of “cutting to suit one’s cloth”.
He also noted that under the assistance programme, children usually get $45 per week, able-bodied adults $33, minimum disabled $36 and maximum disabled $63 per week.
However, he acknowledged that in recent times not everyone could be issued grants, pointing out that in some cases a woman with four children may only be given support for three.
Other officials told Barbados TODAY that based on the recent financial cuts, the Department was forced to make do with what it had. As a result, Welfare had also capped the amount issued in weekly food vouchers, water and electricity, except in very dire cases.
There was also a more stringent screening policy in terms of giving assistance to pay rent, the officials said.
Officers are also concerned about increasing hostility towards them, especially by persons entering the Department with weapons.
Earlier today, one man had to be removed from the Department’s Weymouth, St Michael office by police after he claimed he had a gun. A scuffle ensued with the security officer on duty before the situation was brought under control.
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