Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Kirk Humphrey says there has been a small increase in the number of people seeking assistance for back-to-school expenses from the Welfare Department. However, the overall number of Barbadians requesting help from the agency has petered off.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of Friday’s launch of a new Clean and Green initiative at Dalkeith Woods “The Grotto” in his St Michael South constituency, Humphrey attributed this to a pick up in economic activity following the disruption triggered by the pandemic.
“Over the last two years since COVID started the numbers in the Welfare Department had almost doubled. So, we went from 3 600 or so persons to just over 6 000 persons. But those numbers are not actually increasing at the moment, the numbers are actually coming down because, I think, more people are going back to work as the economy opens.”
Noting it was not unusual for the department to receive more requests for back-to-school aid, he said it was understandable given that economic circumstances are still challenging.
Minister Humphrey noted that the department has been seeing a number of people who have not traditionally sought its help and he stressed that this is why the soon-to-be established, larger Family Services Department is critical.
“We are going to have the Welfare [department], the National Disabilities Unit, the National Assistance Board and the Child Care Board amalgamated into one department to be able to better service people’s comprehensive needs, not just the economic needs.
“I suspect over the next year when that is rolled out that you will see a better treatment, because I know that people are concerned about the treatment of persons.”
Minister Humphrey however revealed that perception about the department’s handling of clients is not as negative as it may seem.
He briefly pointed to a recent study conducted by the University of the West Indies which revealed otherwise.
“I am in receipt of a study that we did of persons’ attitude towards the welfare department from clients and the welfare department actually performed very well. People who actually deal with the welfare department in their response actually thought that the welfare department treated them well.
“There are obviously areas and needs that we have to improve and I intend to improve them.”
Minister Humphrey thanked the department for its work, noting that it has been under pressure particularly during COVID to respond to the public’s needs.
“I have …one officer with 400 and something cases. And I think the public doesn’t understand the pressure, but I want to thank the Welfare Department for the work that they have done particularly during COVID because they never stopped.” (SD)