Barbadians who abandon their elderly relatives to the mercy of the state, or worse yet, to the elements, will be prevented from receiving pension cheques belonging to the abandoned relatives under new legislation, Chairman of the National Assistance Board (NAB) David Durant has assured.
The legislation “is already drafted and would be going before parliament this year”, Durant said while delivering last Friday’s Democratic Labour Party lunchtime lecture at the party’s George Street headquarters.
The Government Senator explained that the measure would make it mandatory for the pension funds to go towards the care of the elderly person, and not to unscrupulous relatives.
“We will be able to stop that cheque from going to the family member because they have no more care of the elderly, and it will be a matter of notifying the National Insurance Scheme. I spoke to the Minister [of Social Care Steve Blackett] just a few days ago and he has a few meetings to be at, then he is going to bring it to Parliament. So it’s close, it’s going to be this year definitely. Trust me on that one,” Durant said.
The legislation to guide the use of contributory pensions was initially considered as a remedy for the growing number of elderly people abandoned at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. However, Durant said while Government had clamped down on the practice, people were now leaving vulnerable senior relatives to fend for themselves in squalid conditions, while forcing them to sign over their pension cheques.
And many of these relatives, who sometimes cannot be found, often show up from out of nowhere to claim the pension cheques or to possess homes constructed for ailing senior citizens by the NAB, he charged.
“A number of these relatives are hiding, but if, for example, we build a new home or rebuild the place for the elderly person, relatives begin to come forward and sometimes want to even stay in the house. So we have to also look at the legislation to see if we could include that as well because we would prefer them not to be there. They also pop up when that person’s pension arrives and they take it and don’t even return to give that elderly person a glass of water, “ he complained.
In the meantime the NAB Chairman said he was petitioning Government for four acres of land upon which to construct 20 houses so that his organization would be better able to provide temporary relief for the direst circumstances.