Jan 01, 2016 News
Government, through its Ministry of Social Protection, will be looking to solicit the support of “willing” donors to help fund a number of initiatives aimed at helping to improve the lives of citizens.
According to Minister of Social Protection, Ms. Volda Lawrence, plans are already apace for the creation of a Special Projects Unit to help find the donors.
Minister Lawrence’s disclosure was made on Wednesday during her Ministry’s end-of-year press conference at the Millennium Manor Hotel, Hadfield Street, Georgetown.
She revealed that the Ministry is currently pursuing a number of initiatives and a multitude of others are in the making for the New Year. But according to her, “since our economy cannot currently fund all the development schemes we envisage, this (Special Projects) Unit is part of our strategy to ensure there is provision for our vision.”
Added to this, the Social Protection Ministry has moved to create its own Public Relations department which, according to the Minister, is intended to ensure that through the media, the public remains au fait with its ongoing plans, policies and programmes.
The Ministry is also gearing to launch yet another Unit – the Gender Affairs Bureau – early this year, Lawrence disclosed. This Unit will in fact be a merger of the Ministry’s Men’s Affairs Bureau and Women’s Affairs Bureau, and this, the Minister asserted, is in keeping with Government’s vision and global trends.
In keeping with Government’s vision too, Lawrence said “we have also delinked the Probation Department from the broader Social Services programme to have a more focused approach and to help in resolving some of the ongoing challenges and struggles faced by individuals and families.”
This focused approach, she noted, is part of the reason for the Ministry’s name change from the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security to the Ministry of Social Protection under the coalesced A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Government.
“We believe that all Guyanese deserve ‘the good life’. The government believes that it must support all Guyanese through improved service delivery, greater efficiency, cutting the response time in meeting public needs, and creating new and innovative ways in helping improve the quality of their lives and the generations to come,” the Social Protection Minister asserted.
As such, she assured that Guyanese will continue to benefit from improved safety nets, including significant increases in the Old Age Pension; a stronger focus on gender mainstreaming, including crafting a national policy; stricter enforcement of the nation’s labour laws; greater child protection policies; increased and more timely responses to social ills; and more frequent consultations with stakeholders on the way forward.
Lawrence assumed the portfolio of Social Protection Minister about seven months ago and, according to her, although undertaking her new role was extremely energy-sapping at times, it was also exciting and enlightening.
She was also able to observe that the challenges of the Ministry which she now heads are many. In fact she disclosed that “finding a permanent solution for the ongoing war against our children is nightmarish; the brutal, bloody and every so often, life-ending assaults against our women must end; the callous disregard for our elderly is alarming; and those who are temporarily, or permanently, homeless must not be left to the vagaries of Mother Nature or the unnatural tendencies of the heartless among us”.
She stated too that “among the challenges we also face is removing our Amerindian population from the periphery of national development”. But according to her, “with assistance from the Canadian government we are training a number of these Guyanese to be ‘ambassadors’ who will help bridge existing gaps as we pursue development of their communities to help them beat the pinch of poverty”.
Even as the Ministry aims to achieve a great deal in the interest of the citizens, it is simultaneously confronting operational, administrative and infrastructural challenges, according to the Minister.
“The Ministry of Social Protection wants to run with its programmes, but we are hamstrung by staff shortage in the Labour Department, staff shortage in the Accounts Department and staff shortage in the Child Care and Protection Agency,” she disclosed. And this, according to her, is compounded by “the perennial shortage of funding to monetise the initiatives we have been conceiving.”
She however declared that “as I see it, we will beat the odds; against all odds we triumphed at the May 11 polls. Against the odds we hiked salaries for public servants and provided those earning less than $500,000 per month a $50,000 to help brighten their Christmas festivities. Against the odds we have also increased Old Age pension payments. We are finding ways to overcome the existing challenges we confront, and we plan doing so in the future.”
Moreover, Minister Lawrence noted that in 2016 the nation can look forward to a number of initiatives, including priority placement on Early Childhood Development; the opening of the Family Court; the critical Counter Trafficking in Persons (C-TIP) Unit to be enhanced with additional staff to combat existing and emerging challenges, and pensioners receiving a book to cover the calendar year instead of the traditional six months. By 2017, the Minister added, pensioners will have their ID cards replace their pension books.
Another interesting development at the Social Protection Ministry is that the existing Women of Worth (WOW) programme will become gender-neutral. Minister Lawrence disclosed plans that will see her Ministry improving its relationship with Non-Governmental Organisations. And there will be improved programmes, she added, at the Night Shelter, the Palms Geriatric Home, the Hugo Chavez Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintegration, the Guyana Women’s Leadership Institute, the Board of Industrial Training (BIT), the Coops and Friendly Society Department, and the Statistical Department, Occupational Safety and Health (OSH), which will be delinked from industrial relations.
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