Tuesday 4 August, 2020

Doors not closed to the vulnerable! Welfare is not leaving anyone out

The Welfare Department is defending its reputation and denying allegations that the unit and its staff are not working to aid those in the society in need.

Having issued more than 1500 food vouchers to the poor and vulnerable in Barbados over the last three weeks, Acting Chief Welfare Officer, Lorraine Willett says that the proof of their work is in the pudding.

Willett 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.

A statement was issued this evening in direct response to an article published in another section of the media with the headline - Women in need of welfare assistance ‘left out’.

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.”

With the government's implementation of the $20-million Household Survival Programme, the Welfare Department has been handling the handing out of grants for the next six months, and she revealed that they have also extended the approvals for those persons who receive national assistance. This means that recipients will automatically receive their cheques.

Several supermarkets are honouring the food vouchers issued by the Welfare Department, including Trimart, Channell, Lionel C. Hill, Roxy, Emerald City and Carlton A1 Supermarkets.


No closed doors

The Acting Chief Welfare Officer further denied that the Welfare Department was closed to its clients during this period, as alleged in the same 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 (April 9), 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.

Misunderstanding was resolved

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.

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