By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
ENGLERSTON MP Glenys Hanna Martin yesterday called for an immediate reversal of changes to social assistance policy, limiting aid for school uniforms.
Mrs Hanna Martin, shadow minister for social services and urban development, said the drastic shift from need-based policies threatened to marginalise families and disrupt access to education.
Noting the allocation for uniform assistance had been considerably reduced, she referred to two specific assistance guidelines: "That no more than two children in any household may be assisted; and if assistance was obtained last year no applicant will be assisted except in 'extreme or extenuating circumstances'."
Mrs Hanna Martin said: "This is a drastic shift from a time-worn policy where assistance was based on qualifying need. This new policy has the potential of marginalising untold households and very likely disrupting the education of many children.
"It is also of note that the allocation for uniform assistance has been reduced in this year's budget by almost one-half as compared to the allocation in the 2016/2017 budget. This is particularly alarming as the most recent unemployment numbers show no appreciable reduction in the number of people out of work. We are seeing more of the same from a government clearly insensitive to the human suffering that is being experienced by many in this country. Many persons receiving food assistance including elderly and disabled persons whose cards have expired have been without assistance for months thereby causing great hardship."
Mrs Hanna Martin reiterated concerns over claims the Social Services Department is referring aid-seekers to charitable organisations such as Red Cross or Great Commission Ministries.
"This is appearing more and more as a policy of abandonment of the primary and fundamental role of our social safety net," she said.
"I call on the new minister to immediately review these policies and affirm and confirm that people who have qualifying need be it food or assistance with school uniforms for their children are not turned away. We are reminded of the PM's recent comments in the House of Assembly when in proclaiming his commitment to the poor he recited Matthew Chapter 25 verses 35 to 40.
"This drastic cut in social assistance for our children living in poverty conditions is contrary to the recent rhetoric heard in Parliament on the Over-the-Hill initiative.
"The minister of social services and (urban) development is being called upon to immediately reverse this draconian policy," she added.