The Welfare Department has issued more than 1500 food vouchers to the poor and vulnerable in Barbados over the last three weeks.
Acting Chief Welfare Officer, Lorraine Willett, has reported that the number of vouchers issued on any given day has doubled from 75 to 150 as the Department responds to increased requests as a result of the impact of COVID-19.
She strongly denied allegations made in an article published by Barbados Today on April 8 under the headline Women in need of welfare assistance ‘left out’.
Ms. Willett stated: “It is not true to say that poor or vulnerable people have not been receiving help from the Welfare Department. Several of the persons who have contacted us for assistance with food have been first-time applicants who are in need because they have been sent home from their jobs during this crisis. We have been responding to them and providing vouchers as well as care packages.”
The Welfare Department, she revealed, had also extended the approvals for those persons who receive national assistance grants for the next six months. This means that recipients will automatically receive their cheques.
Several supermarkets honour food vouchers issued by the Welfare Department, including Trimart, Channell, Lionel C. Hill, Roxy, Emerald City and Carlton.
The Acting Chief Welfare Officer further denied that the Welfare Department was closed to its clients during this period, as alleged in the article.
“Welfare officers are listed as essential workers and have continued to work throughout the shutdown. While we are operating with a skeleton staff at the main office, welfare officers have been assessing clients from their homes via telephone interviews and have also been visiting homes to ensure that people in need receive care packages.”
Up to Thursday, in addition to the headquarters at the Weymouth Corporate Centre, satellite offices in St. Philip, St. George, St. John, St. Andrew and St. Peter remained open to the public, she said.
Ms. Willett also addressed an issue raised in the article about a client who was allegedly turned away and told to return in two weeks.
She explained that the client called the helpline and was advised to call, not visit, the department. She, however, turned up at the department and was advised by the security guard on duty to call the officer assigned to her area to be assessed via telephone. She returned to the department later in the day and was issued with a care package.
The Acting Chief Welfare Officer stated that her department was fully aware of the challenges being experienced by many people at this time and was committed to assisting as many people as possible during this difficult period.