Feb 17, 2016 News
– Social Protection Minister
…Moves being made to establish national minimum standards for Elderly Care Facilities
By Kiana Wilburg
While it may be the wish of the Social Protection Minister Volda Lawrence to “dismantle ‘The Palms’ eye
sore that some senior citizens are housed in”—the Granger administration just cannot afford to replace it just yet.
However, Lawrence assured that this year her Ministry will be spending some $20 million to purchase equipment to improve the functionality and efficacy of that historic institution.
She noted that there are a variety of constraints facing the institution, but the Ministry has made strides in addressing some key issues.
Lawrence said that these include staffing at the institution, as well as the aesthetics of the environment. The politician said that her Ministry’s broader vision is to establish national minimum standards for Elderly Care Facilities.
In addition, the Minister said that moves have been made to correct the dietary deficiencies of the residents of the Palms. She said that specialists from the Georgetown Public Hospital have been working with the Social Protection Ministry to help provide meals with specific dietary requirements for residents with identified illnesses. She said that the Ministry also has ongoing programmes to build capacity of the staff of the geriatric and other institutions linked to the Ministry of Social Protection.
Lawrence said that the elderly in Guyana have been for too long, forgotten. She reminded that their previous measly pensions epitomized neglect.
The Minister said, “In a few short months, we have managed to hike their pensions by $5000. Each old-age pensioner will now receive $18,200 and we anticipate a fully automated system at the beginning of 2017 so that they would no longer require booklets to redeem their pensions, but can simply do so by producing their identification (ID) cards. These things may seem inconsequential, but cumulatively, they are necessary to help lift the nation out of the retrogressive and punitive environment in which our people still access basic services.”
Lawrence said that automation will also make the system more transparent and ensure that only those who are truly eligible receive pension without the recurrent hassle. She said that Guyana cannot afford to pay such pensions to migrants. The politician said that this new system will certainly remove illegitimate pensioners.
“We are a coalition of change and together we will change this. We will improve the life of every Guyanese, including the homeless. This issue is being addressed largely by the Georgetown Resuscitation Committee and very shortly, many of the homeless persons will be taken off the streets.”
The Parliamentarian added, “Once these persons are screened, many will be sent to the Hugo Chavez Home for Reintegration and Rehabilitation. There, we will ensure that they are rehabilitated, receive life-skills training to foster reunion with their families and communities and use their newly-acquired skills to gain employment. This year we will create a sustainable poultry, fish and vegetable farm at the Centre.”
Lawrence acknowledged that Guyana’s society, like many others, has many vulnerable groups that require greater attention to correct perennial neglect. Among these, she said, are the persons living with disabilities. She said that they will be involved in programmes to make them more socially accepted and economically independent.
The Social Protection Minister said that among the vulnerable are residents of Hugo Chavez Centre.
She said, “Since our historic victory at the May 2015 polls, not only have we reviewed the Management system, but we have introduced new programmes such as the fish and chicken farms and provision of greenhouses for agriculture, so residents can learn life skills to guarantee full reintegration into society.”
The Parliamentarian said that a partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture has begun the process of self-sufficiency. She said that presently, there are 7,000 tilapias being reared and very soon, through this cooperation, the fully-constructed chicken pens will be teeming with birds for eventual consumption and sale on the local market.
Additionally, Minister Lawrence said that this year, her Ministry will be building three greenhouses where planting of cash crops will take place to enhance further, residents’ ability to become more financially independent. She said that female residents started some life-skills training programmes two weeks ago, and the men are scheduled to attend Practical Instruction Centres (PICs) where they will be coursed in numerous aspects of woodwork.
To cater for their physical wellbeing, Lawrence said that medical personnel from the Ministry of Public Health will make regular visits to check on them.
“Unfortunately, there are still many of our vulnerable citizens who are not captured by the many available state institutions established to help secure them against the vagaries of modern life. I refer to those vagrants who are now being indiscriminately doused by private citizens in a bid to remove them from the streets. This is not our method of handling growing national challenges,” the Social Protection Minister expressed.
She added, “We have improved conditions at the Night Shelter which now has running water after five years. Now, the institution is cleaned on a daily basis, clothing is available for residents, and we have installed washing machines with the help of corporate sponsorship, to help with laundering. The Night Shelter held its first Christmas Lunch last December which was also sponsored by corporate citizens.”
The Member of Parliament said that the coalition Government intends to remain relevant and knows that in this vein, it must maintain contact with the people.
She informed Kaieteur News that Government Ministers have been travelling to the Administrative Regions meeting with diverse communities to help identify their needs.
Lawrence said that Government has taken a decision to decentralise key services in all regions through the establishment of sub-offices comprising staff from various departments within the Ministry.
In this context, the Social Protection Minister said that her Ministry has budgeted $6 million for the Linden Legal Aid Clinic, so that vulnerable persons could benefit from this subsidised service.
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