The Government of Barbados owes it to the citizens of this country to clearly spell out its welfare policy towards the poor and unemployed as well as towards persons with disabilities.
Many of my constituents who have not found employment in view of the harsh economic circumstances presently prevailing in our country and who were previously on welfare are being either taken off of the programme or have had their monies severely cut. No reasonable explanation has been forthcoming from the political directorate as to why this has happened. These are in the main single mothers with many children of school age, persons with disabilities and senior citizens who are not beneficiaries of old age contributory pensions.
In the midst of all of the Government’s financial cuts within recent times, the welfare grant to individuals from the Social Care Ministry has been cut in this year’s Estimates by 32 percent from what was actually spent three years ago in the year leading up to the last General Elections. This year’s Estimates for grant of welfare to individuals are less than $16 million, down from the over $23 million which was spent in 2012-13. This Cabinet decision has been taken even although the Finance Minister and Central Bank Governor wish us to believe that the economy is “turning around”.
The Minister of Social Care, or some other member of the Cabinet, needs to clearly outline what is Democratic Labour Party’s policy as to how it chooses who is being off of its welfare budget or whose welfare allocation is cut. The Government also needs to inform the public as to what programmes it has in place to specifically provide opportunities for these Barbadians to become gainfully employed. Additionally, the public ought to be informed as to what policy is in place to facilitate these persons who are being removed from Government’s welfare programme so that they can obtain the necessary skills which they may require to find employment in these very difficult times.
It is socially dangerous and politically unwise for any Government of Barbados to just cut off poor, unemployed and disabled persons, many of whom have young children, from the welfare system without any strategy as to how they will be provided with money for their continued viability and for the survival of their dependents. A society must be always judged by how it treats to its most vulnerable persons.
The Country Assessment of Living Conditions Study indicates that in 2010 one in five Barbadians were already living below the poverty line. The implications which will arise from the present political administration’s policy to reduce the welfare allocation to some of the most financially desperate, combined with all the other crises going on in our education, health and other social services, are potentially catastrophic to our society.
17th April, 2015
EDMUND G. HINKSON
Attorney-at-Law and Saint James North Member of Parliament