CHALLENGES AT WELFARE OFFICES IN THE NORTH

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Excessive heat, inadequate space, traffic noise, dust and lack of security are some of the major challenges faced by Government Welfare Officers and clients at their offices located in the north of the island.

This was revealed recently as Minister of Social Care, Dr. Denis Lowe, and other ministry officials who toured the offices to get a first-hand look at the facilities and the improvements that need to be made for the better delivery of services.

Stating that the situations which exist at some of these offices did not go well with the message of advancing the quality of people’s lives, particularly people at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder, Dr. Lowe said: “We need to have some relationship between our message and the physical location where these individuals are being served.  We really have been left as a Government, quite a lot of work to do at improving these conditions.”

In relation to the situation at the Welfare Office at the Warrens Polyclinic, he said: “Obviously, we’ll have to work closely with the relevant ministries to ensure that we work together to ensure amelioration of the situation.  I am confident that the Ministry of Health is working feverishly to ensure that the services here at Warrens are enhanced by the improvement of the physical space.”

Dr. Lowe said that ideally he would like to see adequate space at each location to carry out group sessions in terms of training, so that persons who are seeking assistance may be comfortably accommodated. 

Meanwhile, he also disclosed that his Ministry would be embarking on a joint project with the Ministry of Transport, Works and International Transport, called the National Environmental Enhancement Programme (NEEP), to help wean some able-bodied persons off welfare.  

According to the Minister, “it is a work programme that intends to create opportunities for individuals to save them from the clutches of poverty”. 

Dr. Lowe explained that it would target able-bodied persons who were part of the welfare system, who wanted to do better, but must balance that desire with the need to survive.  “At the end of the day, feeding and housing one’s family is perhaps a greater driver in terms of people’s priority, than simply finding work.   We want to create training and development for those persons in addition to the Welfare to Work Programme, and an economic circumstance where they can earn far greater than what they are getting now on the welfare role, which is about $33 a week,” he said.

Minister Lowe revealed that some tasks would include the beautification of the island, while ensuring that drainage systems and wells were cleared, particularly before and during the hurricane season. 

This programme is expected to get under way next week and is expected to employ an additional 14 persons at the 13 depots across the island.     

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