Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Cynthia Forde has expressed concern that there are people in Barbados stealing food because they are hungry, although the Welfare Department is there to help those in need.
And she has promised to see if more assistance can be given to those facing hardships.
Her comments came on the heels of two parents appearing before the court last week, charged with stealing food items from supermarkets. The two, who were placed on six-month bonds, said they committed the crimes to feed their families.
“I think that is very unfortunate and it says that we, the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, must do even more on the ground with our social workers to ensure that those people who fall between the cracks are given the necessary resources to keep their heads above water,” Forde said.
“We do have a large percentage of impoverished people who cannot go the extra mile because they don’t have the elasticity in the pocket to be able to feed their children properly. And while I agree there are times when your children are hungry, if you are really in that type of position, sometimes people would go to the extreme to put food on the table for their children.”
The Minister said she would meet with the Chief Welfare Officer and her team, as well as the permanent secretary in the ministry who would give guidance, “to see how best we could even give a little more, acknowledging that some people were retrenched and the resources they would have received quite a few months ago may not be all dried up”.
“It is a complex set of experiences, but we will do our best in our department to ensure that the impoverished around us meet the criteria and that they get the resources that should be trickling down to them, because a hungry man or woman is an angry individual and children who are hungry must not be left out there to beg and steal when resources are available to help those who are in need,” she added.
Forde acknowledged that there were some people who refused to go the department because they did not want to be treated unfavourably. However, she insisted that “there are officers who try their best to help people who meet the criteria” but if people felt they were treated unfairly at the Welfare Department at any time, they could file a complaint.
She also assured that once individuals were interviewed by welfare officers, most times they met the criteria to receive assistance, and they got it, although there were some people who already “have a lot and want more”.
At the same time, the Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs suggested that some Barbadians needed to prioritize more to make ends meet.
She said those persons who benefit from vouchers from the Welfare Department should utilize them to buy groceries to meet their families’ needs, rather than spend the money on fast food.
“The money you can spend at a fast food shop, you can buy a chicken and that chicken can serve you two or three times depending on the size of your family. You can make a soup with it, you can buy two pounds of potatoes, you can buy two plantains, you can buy a yam, you can buy cucumber. If we teach our people how to economize, it would help to eliminate some of the challenges,” she said.
The Minister also pointed out that while Government gave people in need access to skills training, some were delinquent in their attendance and performance in the courses.
“Some of them, in the middle of their studies, you hear them say, ‘I want money, I don’t want no training. I want to work to get money quick’, and they bypass the training. The training is extremely critical,” she said.