– family support mechanism touted as replacement
Government is gearing to wind down public assistance. This is according to Minister of Social Protection, Ms. Volda Lawrence, who earlier this week disclosed, “We’re going to work to ensure that this is the last year
for public assistance.”
The Minister’s disclosure was forthcoming as she engaged members of a newly-appointed Local Board of Guardians.
The Board will be tasked with reviewing applications for Public Assistance for persons living along East Bank Demerara.
As part of the effort to reduce what the Minister described as the ‘dependency syndrome’, the Social Protection Ministry will be making deliberate moves to teach people to help themselves.
According to the Minister there have been some evidence cases of the ‘dependency syndrome’ where people are reluctant to seek alternative sources of income. But with the different approach that the Ministry is embracing this year, such reluctance is expected to become a thing of the past.
In so doing, the Ministry will work to introduce conditional cash transfers which will see focus being directed to the family, according to Minister Lawrence. The ultimate objective, she informed, is to bring people out of a state of poverty.
Explaining the process of rendering family support, the Minister related, “When persons come into any agency or department of the Ministry, a comprehensive evaluation will be done to see how the family is lacking and we will support that family in those areas. We believe that Public Assistance doesn’t capture the family, but the conditional cash transfer will.”
Expressing her view that “Everybody has potential,” the Minister noted that what is often lacking is opportunity. As such the Minister encouraged the Board to work along with religious leaders in the communities to further support families.
According to the Minister, her Ministry will this year be paying keener attention to delinquent parents. And particular focus will be directed to fathers who do not contribute financially to their children’s upkeep.
Minister Lawrence considered that too often many fathers have abandoned their responsibility to their families, leaving the State to provide.
“Everyone will face the consequence – the law. The State cannot be burdened when a parent or parents have the means of taking care of their children and they choose not to do so. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are we’re going to come after you,” Minister Lawrence warned.
She noted that there are cases where women are afraid to seek monies from fathers to support their children because of the men’s abusive behaviour. But according to the Minister, this state of affairs will also be addressed by the Ministry.
She acknowledged that there are some parents who are genuinely unable to provide for their children due to various reasons and the Ministry is prepared to support those families.
But she emphasized, “It’s unfair to use taxpayers’ money to support children whose parents can afford to take care of them.”
The East Bank Local Board of Guardian is one of the many Boards installed across the country that became effective on February 1, 2016 to process Public Assistance applications.
Public Assistance is a form of temporary financial assistance issued by the Government of Guyana to specific persons, including the aged, infirmed, sick, destitute and children below the age of 14. At present, each monthly Public Assistance voucher is valued at $6,500.
The Boards are responsible for evaluating and determining the legitimacy of Public Assistance applications in rural areas to ensure that taxpayers’ dollars are justifiably spent.
The East Bank Board comprises Roderick Edinboro, Alma Francois-Bovell, Fannett Brandford, Loraine Stephens, Mark Braithwaite, and Deryck Boyce.
“The Ministry of Social Protection lacks the capacity to deal with all the social issues we have by ourselves and as a result we need your help. You are our ears and eyes on the ground. Your interactions as members of the community can help us to get the facts on the issue.”
“For too long we have made judgments about who gets Public Assistance and how much, based on perceptions. I’m saying let’s not use perception. Let us investigate the cases and execute our tasks based on facts. Let’s treat people with dignity and respect,” Minister Lawrence urged.
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