Welfare services will be under immense pressure come 2019 when the full impact of Government’s public sector job cuts is expected to set in, Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Cynthia Forde has warned.
Forde told Barbados TODAY that social services such as the Welfare Department are still grappling with displacement from the 2013 retrenchment exercise under the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration, which saw 3000 employees from statutory entities being sent home.
The Member of Parliament for St Thomas explained that because Barbadians are a proud people, many of the laid-off workers from the International Monetary Fund-backed Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme, will only tap into the welfare services as a last resort.
“It is going to be overwhelmed as all of the persons who have been retrenched are not going to the agency yet because we still have persons in Barbados who believe that a little with content is great gain. Therefore they are trying to eek out from what they have been given in their severance packages,” Forde said.
“Many people in Barbados do not like handouts and therefore they are trying to make do with what they have but I believe when that runs out, which may be soon, the Welfare Department may be needed to give assistance.”
Forde contended that with some of the workers in 2013 still not able to find work coupled with workers being retrenched this year coming to the social services, the impact could prove overwhelming.
“There would have been an increase on the social services since 2013 and a number of those persons were never able to get back a job. So the Welfare Department has been working assiduously to look after the needs of those who were in before such as the disabled and elderly but also those persons that continue to be impacted,” said Forde, who noted that all departments under her ministry currently have their hands full.
“The Poverty Alleviation Bureau will make recommendations to the Welfare Department and we have a project called Strengthening of Human and Social Development and they, too, have been helping with poor people. They look after one family per constituency for the last five years and they too have been going the extra mile,” she said.
During her Mini-Budget back in June, Prime Minister Mia Mottley allocated $5 million dollars to the Welfare Department in anticipation of the displacement to come from the austerity measures.
This morning Minister Forde praised her boss for her foresight, noting that her ministry was prepared to ensure that those resources are stretched as far as possible.
“The Prime Minister made sure that there is a cushion for the many people that may come in. We still have to wait and see because as the Prime Minister said yesterday Barbados is seeing a little silver lining. So we will continue to work as best we can and we will ensure that nobody is left behind,” she stressed.