Acting Director of the National Assistance Board, Colleen Walcott, showing Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Kirk Humphrey, the homes at the Vauxhall Senior Citizens Village during the tour yesterday. (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs)

Government is moving full steam ahead to amalgamate social service departments across the island to improve the assistance provided to residents. 

Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Kirk Humphrey, made this assertion on Friday, following a tour of various departments that fall under his portfolio.

He was accompanied by Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry, Corey Lane; Permanent Secretary, Gabrielle Springer; Deputy Permanent Secretary, Mark Franklin, and other heads of departments.

Mr. Humphrey pointed out that circumstances such as increasing pressure on families, mounting social pressures and economic fallout, created a situation called the “transient poor”.

“Many people are going to pass poverty and its worst manifestation. People are going to pass through homelessness, and we have to be able to be in a position that when they do…be able to offer them the facilities to allow them to build themselves up,” he stated.

The Minister stressed there was a need to offer a kind of care when dealing with the disabled, elderly, or the homeless, that showed that regardless of where they were in life, and what circumstances led them there, that they were appreciated.

With this in mind, he challenged the Ministry’s staff to start thinking as a collective, and outside the box, while at the same time going more public with interventions being made.

“Over the next few months, the pace will be intense…as social services will be amalgamated. The approach will be to do it as a collective,” the Minister said, urging them to share their thoughts and ideas with the Ministry so the most effective solutions could be sought.

Mr. Humphrey gave the assurance that it was his intention to visit all departments under the Ministry’s portfolio and interact with staff and hear their concerns directly.

He also challenged staff members to change the definition of how the Ministry worked with existing partners and filled existing gaps in the delivery of social services.

Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Kirk Humphrey, in discussion with President and Founder of the Barbados Alliance to End Homelessness, Kemar Saffrey, following a tour of Mr. Saffrey’s office. (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs)

“One point of my focus will be to ensure that the staff are working in good conditions with the necessary gear and tools they need to be effective in their jobs.

“Also of paramount importance will be to ensure that those who we serve, are served in modern, comfortable accommodations. We must give true meaning to the idea of people-centred delivery of social services,” the Minister emphasised.

Speaking after touring the offices of the Barbados Alliance to End Homelessness, Mr. Humphrey commended President and Founder, Kemar Saffrey, for the work his organisation was conducting to assist those in need.

He also extended an offer to Mr. Saffrey to work with Government as it sought to reform the way its social services are structured.

In response, Mr. Saffrey stated that he welcomed the opportunity to partner with Government for the benefit of his organisation’s clients and Barbados as a whole.

Meanwhile, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry, Corey Lane, said it was time to not only think of partnerships between Government and the private sector, but also involve the third sector to include community-based and non-governmental oganisations.

He called on staff to redouble their efforts and come together to highlight areas in need of repair, as well as their challenges and concerns.

Other facilities visited during the tour were the National Assistance Board, the Clyde Gollop Centre for the Homeless, the Jorris Dunner Elderly Day Care Centre, and the Vauxhall Senior Citizens’ Village.

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