A retired nurse has resumed her protest against the discontinuation of her invalidity benefit with a reduced pension despite the Prime Minister’s assurances that the policy was to end.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY at her Chelston Avenue, St Michael home, Harris said that the joy of hearing the announcement by Prime Minister Mottley that she would soon receive her dues was short-lived as her telephone was disconnected yesterday.
This, said Janice Harris, 56, led her to protest once again from Collymore Rock to the Treasury Building on Bridge Street.
She said: “I took to the streets of Barbados yesterday to represent the medically unfit because we are a people who have contributed to the nation of Barbados and we have been through a very hard time where our bills are not being paid to time and many are facing a very rough time in their lives.
“When the Prime Minister said our pensions was going to be paid back, I felt joy, I felt praises, I gave God thanks for moving the heart of the Prime Minister of Barbados.”
After her protest in Bridgetown, she became dehydrated, she claimed, and went to the Welfare Department in search of help from her sister, a welfare office, who she was told was on vacation. She was told that she could receive assistance with her utility bills as well as a voucher for food after an officer heard her plight.
She said: “When I look at the Welfare Department, I look at it for people who are less fortunate and I do not believe that we that contribute to this nation should be in a place to receive from Welfare because they are people in this country who cannot afford to pay their bills and they are in a situation where they are not working.
“Welfare Department has its issues and its moments and [does] not need the medically unfit people who have contributed to the nation of Barbados.
“But I give God thanks and praise for the welfare department who came to my needs.”
Harris said Government did not swiftly put a system in place so affected workers are not forced to live in poverty conditions.
She said: “My question to the administration of the Barbados Labour Party, why was a system not put in place to assist the medically unfit people whose pensions were taken away?
“At this point in time, I do not have a problem if my pension from the treasury was taken to fulfil the needs of the debts of Barbados. I can live with $956 monthly provided my mortgage is being paid.
“It is a challenge for me where I am forced to live in a poverty condition. We that are medically unfit have gone into a crisis that is so painful and so hurtful and at times it brings tears to my eyes.”
Harris became emotional as she indicated her utilities are due for disconnection.
She said she has also been placed in the debt collectors’ hands by Unicomer Barbados for outstanding debts she has with furnishers Courts.
She made an impassioned plea for reinstatement of her benefits.
She said: “Until the pensions are being restored what do we do in this country? It is sad it is painful and I pray to God that there will be a speedy recovery of the pensions being paid by next week.
“The Prime Minister has given an order, a command, and in Jesus’s name, I want those that are responsible for giving the authorization to the Barbados Treasury to [authorize the payments].
“Because the Treasury cannot pay and would not pay any pensions until the authorization is given.
“I feel that the words of the Prime Minister of Barbados should be carried out and as the leader of our nation, speaking with authority that those that have a duty to perform shall not delay any more.
“This is six months I am like this and I am asking you in the name of Jesus you that are responsible for giving the Barbados Treasury the authorization please, please, we have suffered enough, we have hurt enough, we have mourned and I am asking you to have consideration that we have our bills to pay and give the Barbados Treasury the authority to restore back our pensions.”
Harris first appeared in Barbados TODAY when she stood outside Parliament’s gates in protest after her $628 pension was reduced to $47.51 three months ago because she also received an invalidity benefit of over $800.
Since May 29, Harris has been receiving payments of the $47.51 which she returned to the Treasury as she deemed it “a disgrace” to receive money on which she cannot live.
She said: “ It is more than an injustice. It is unbearable and it cannot be described. It is too much pain and sorrow that we the medical unfit people have been in this nation.
“We have served the Government of this nation, we have devoted our lives to this nation and I do not believe that it should go pass next week. The Prime Minister gave an order and it should be done right away.”