Hundreds of retrenched public servants have received help from the Household Mitigation Unit established during the initial stages of the Barbados Economic Recovery Transformation (BERT) programme, as well as from churches and corporate Barbados, but many of them are still finding it hard to cope.
That admission has come from special advisor to the Prime Minister on poverty alleviation and sustainable development goals, Corey Lane.
Speaking at a press conference at his Letchworh House, Garrison, St Michael office, he noted that approximately 550 retrenched public servants had so far benefitted from the assistance offered by the Household Mitigation Unit, and some of the former government employees had secured employment in companies such as security firm G4S and Productive Business Solutions (PBS) which hired 40 individuals. Sixty-two workers were also employed in the Ministry of Transport and Works’ cleaning programme.
Lane pointed out that most of the 1 100 workers retrenched under the BERT programme were women and 62 per cent were breadwinners in their households.
And he expressed concern about the psychological effects the layoffs were having on some people.
According to him, over 100 people had received therapy from Network Counselling following the job cuts and several of those had extended their therapy sessions.
He said some of the retrenched workers were also unable to process their job losses.
“We are socialized and cultured to get that good education, to get that good government job for security….We are reaching out to the retrenched workers and lots of these workers say ‘all I want is back my job’ . . . . So we have had to engage in career counselling to get people to understand that there is life outside of the public sector and there is life outside of a government job,” Lane said.
“I am extremely pleased, particularly with the churches who stepped forward for our high-priority cases.”
He also expressed concern about the hundreds of Barbadians he said were “slipping between the cracks” and living below the poverty line.
Lane noted that the average pensioner receives $4 500 a year, which puts them below the poverty line.
He further pointed out that given the increases in the cost of water service, food and transportation, some people were barely able to keep their heads above water.
The social activist added that the desperation of citizens was evident, as there has been an increase in people going to the social services seeking assistance.
“Barbadians are known to be a proud people…and that is why when I see more people coming and stepping up for assistance that I know it is really bad, but where we can help, let us help,” he said.
Lane stressed that the Government was doing its best to address the plight of these Barbadians, but also urged citizens to be their “brother’s and sister’s keeper”.
“What we are finding is that there are a lot of people slipping through the cracks….I have received priority cases and special cases where some people in Barbados are really living below the poverty line,” he said, adding that a study is needed to give a true assessment of citizens’ living conditions.
“The 2020 study on living conditions must be done and that must be used then to actually improve on the policies that we currently have,” Lane contended.
“People out there are suffering, people are going to bed hungry, people have floors that [are] falling in, there are still a lot of pit toilets . . . .I want Barbadians to send forward their experience, send forward the information and suggestions so that we get this not just right but we get the best policies at the best costs.”
Lane also noted that some citizens were not financially literate and strongly advocated for a financial literacy programme to be accessible to ordinary Barbadians, especially those living in poverty.
“Something like budgeting that we need every day, we don’t know anything about….A lot of us are financially illiterate. One of the things coming out of the Household Mitigation Unit that I learned, is that a number of persons were given gratuity and severance and within several weeks they were in trouble because they ran and paid off their loans and then they were scared because they had cash flow problems, and this speaks to financial literacy.”