SOCIAL Services Minister Frankie Campbell.
By RIEL MAJOR
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Ministry of Social Services will have to review its budget as it balances previous commitments with an increase in demand for public assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, according to Social Services Minister Frankie Campbell.
He also said his ministry is working tirelessly so displaced residents from Abaco and Grand Bahama can return to their islands and “be a part of the cleaning and restoration” process.
The minister said the storm hasn’t changed the Ministry of Social Services’ focus or mandate, but has intensified the ministry’s efforts.
“Social Services is the humanitarian arm of the government. We believe in the philosophy that man’s basic needs are food, shelter and clothing. Those are items that we would have been addressing prior to the storm. We are intent on reviewing our budget, mindful that we would have to provide those services for more persons than we had anticipated when the budget would have been passed,” he said.
“I would have made it clear during the budget, we found that personal emoluments would have been set aside for persons who are no longer there. Those personal emoluments would have been moved so unless you’re suggesting to me that we are having problems with persons we now have to pay that is a moot point,” he told reporters.
He added: “Nothing else was decreased in the budget as it relates to social assistance. However, mindful of the aftermath of Dorian we now have to review those various same services that we would have been giving because we now realise that the numbers will increase.”
The number of evacuees in shelters is about 1,700, a reduction of previous figures, Mr Campbell told reporters on the sidelines of a press conference to announce Older Persons Month.
The government hopes to get many of these victims back to their home islands soon.
He said: “. . .Psychologically, persons want to be in an environment that they’re more familiar with. We know Abaconians and Grand Bahamians don’t necessarily like New Providence. They come here and do their business and they go back as soon as possible so we want to put them in that frame of mind where they’re in an area that they’re most familiar and happy with.
“That said, the assessments are geared towards identifying persons who, based on minimal damage of their own houses, could with small assistance go back to their houses and start to seek some form of normalcy.”
He added: “And the second stage would be persons who need greater assistance be it labour etcetera, the central government has set aside arrangements to cause those things to happen while we continue to work with our international partners for the long term.”
Two weeks ago, NEMA said the number of people reported missing was 1,300. Mr Campbell said yesterday the number has decreased but could not provide a specific figure.
He said: “I can’t say (the number) for fear of giving you wrong figures. I won’t give any figures but persons are continuing to be reunited and so the number has decreased.”