THE government’s 2013-14 budget contains an “aggressive, socially-driven, agenda that will wipe every tear from every eye,” Minister of Social Services and Community Development Melanie Griffin said.
This includes, she said, “the eyes of children who find it difficult to learn because they are not getting enough food to eat; the eyes of parents who feel a sense of hopelessness because they can no longer provide the most basic needs of food, clothing and shelter for their families; the eyes of older persons who feel like no one cares about them and the eyes of young people who feel like no one is on their run.
“It will also wipe the tears from the eyes of persons with disabilities who feel that no one is addressing their needs, in addition to the eyes of all of those who are vulnerable among us who just feel that nobody cares.”
Mrs Griffin said the implementation of the Bahamas Social Safety Net Programme, which’s is expected to be the driving force of this reform, will have an immediate impact on the way social services is delivered.
A major component of the project is the consolidation of a number of existing programmes of the Department of Social Services and the introduction of a Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programme, which will target households with children, elderly persons, pregnant women and those households with adult individuals who are poor, but without children.
“This means that once the CCT is implemented, approved applicants will, instead of receiving assistance from various programmes, receive a cash transfer to help them meet daily living expenses. However, households with children will be required to meet certain conditions intended to improve the health and education of the children so as to help break the cycle of poverty.
“The fact is that there is a better way to make the delivery of social services more efficient and less stressful for clients and staff of the Department and its supporting agencies and even for the business establishments, which provide the goods and services for clients,” Mrs Griffin said
She said the first Christie administration initiated dialogue with the Inter-American Development Bank in 2002 on Social Safety Net reform and began the process.
“It was this government that initiated the dialogue with the Inter-American Development Bank in 2002 on Social Safety Net Reform and began the process in this regard. It was this government that signed the loan agreement with the IDB on 30 August, 2012 for the Bahamas Social Safety Net Reform Project and this government will through this project implement the necessary reforms to bring about a better and more efficient means of delivering social assistance.
“I am pleased to inform members that the project is well underway and when fully implemented will revolutionise the delivery of social services and strengthen the Department of Social Services.”
Mrs Griffin said the government, through the Department of Social Services, has been “as responsive as possible” to those in distress and this is backed by data provided by the department.
“While there is no doubt that persons who receive assistance are appreciative of what is being provided, many bemoan the length of time it can take for their application for assistance to be processed and approved; or their having to wait on long lines for hours to collect food coupons at the end of the month, or not getting much needed school uniforms for their children in time for the start of the new school year.
“Let me hasten to say that these issues are not caused by the staff of the department not fulfilling their duties; the reality is that the volume of clients has increased and the processes involved from the time of application to the investigation, approval and disbursement of assistance are labour-intensive and have not kept up with the times.
“The Bahamas Social Safety Net Programme is intended to address and improve all of the aforementioned issues that currently impact the delivery of social services in a timely manner while breaking the cycle that feeds the need for continuous governmental support.”