A Government minister has come out strongly against the delay in the delivery of National Insurance benefits cheques to members of the public.
Addressing the monthly meeting of the Christ Church South branch of the ruling Democratic Labour Party last night, outspoken Minister of Education Ronald Jones put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Ian Carrington-led National Insurance Scheme (NIS), following a recent upgrade of the department’s computer system.
In fact, Jones suggested that from the way the entire switch over process was handled, the NIS did not know what it was doing and that some in positions of authority were not “worth their salt”.
He went as far as to caution, the NIS not to fool around people’s money, while zeroing in on the plight of one of his constituents, who up to four weeks ago had not received invalidity benefits since last October.
He also cited the case of three young mothers who did not receive their maternity benefits since giving birth to
“I am saying to myself, ‘but why is this the case?’ Children still have to get milk, pampers, diapers and soap. I cannot understand in the heavens how can anybody not understand that these mothers need their benefits,” said Jones.
“You cannot play around with the benefits for the mothers of babies and children and those who are on invalidity and sickness benefits unless you do not know what you are doing,” he argued, while insisting that “no technological system should stop me from getting what is rightfully mine to feeding my children”.
The Government minister also questioned the decision of the NIS department to implement a full computer upgrade back in January.
“I used to do some Information Technology years ago, but I still try to stay abreast. Anybody worth their salt does not change the system one time like that!
“They run parallel systems to ensure that the new system is really performing the way they want it to perform to satisfy the needs of the business or the institution,” said Jones.
“When the institution’s needs are satisfied they then retire the original system,” he added.
“Today, I call on those who take home their pay cheques and can eat, to ensure that those who need their benefits get a chance to eat too. It is not a matter of dollars and cents, it is a matter of conscience. They too need to nurse their babies. Some too need to take care of their invalidity issues, whatever those issues are,” he told the small gathering.
Turning his attention away from the NIS, the Minister of Education also expressed the strong view that nationally, there needs to be “a major re-ordering of processes and systems”.
“We have to speak to the soul and conscience of our people over and over. We have to recognize that we are all in the same space together. We all are holding up the shores of this land. When one, two, three or four fail, then all will topple. That is the consequence of inaction, intolerance, indiscipline, ‘don’t carishness’, of hard hearts, sacrificing the poor, the vulnerable, and the disenfranchised,” Jones said, insisting, “we have to do better.
“I still want to be my brother’s keeper. I still want to be my neighbour’s friend,” he declared.
Efforts to reach the NIS director for comment today were unsuccessful but officials this evening told Barbados TODAY that the NIS board of directors would be meeting in emergency session on Thursday to discuss the
This follows a directive issued two weeks ago by Social Security Minister Dr Esther Byer to Carrington to proceed with manual processing of NIS payments in the face of numerous complaints by members of the public about the delays, which have mostly affected processing of short term benefits, such as maternity and sickness claims.
However, officials say fewer challenges had arisen with pensions and other long-term benefits.
Over the weekend, Minister Byer and the Chairman Justin Robinson visited with some of the affected persons to hear first hand their concerns.