Outcry from poor people over welfare cuts

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The removal of welfare measures for the small man has led to anxieties among former beneficiaries.

In quick succession, more than 11,800 food card holders, recipients of baby grants and support for differently-able children have all been displaced.

In addition, some workers of Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) have not been paid for two weeks.

Further, cuts are coming to the CEPEP programme.

There are various reports in the traditional and social media and among local government and community representatives and activists about the fall-out from the government’s measures.

Some 11,800 food cards were deactivated because those recipients did not show up at offices of the Ministry of Social Development for an assessment exercise.

That has set back poor people who rely each month on the facility to assist in buying basic foodstuff.

Minister Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn said the measure was meant to update records, but some displaced recipients said they had previously complied with a biometric exercise.

Monthly benefits range from $150 for an individual to $700 for a family.

The assistance to some 300 single mothers of children with cerebral palsy has led to an outcry by some activists.

The beneficiaries were placed by the previous government on URP’s payroll when, in fact, they were receiving monthly grants.

Activists on behalf of the affected acknowledge that the previous administration was wrong to name the mothers are workers.

There are calls for the situation to be regularised and for the mothers to receive monthly grants.

One activist on social media expressed “outrage”, and branded the move as “heartless”.

He said larger sums were being spent on non-essential programmes.

One mother Tricia Hackett wrote on social media that she is mother of an eight-year-old son with cerebral palsy and that medication is costly.

Hackett wrote: “We were under the URP social programme for some years now because we parents … cannot work, but now the government cut us.”

In Parliament last Friday, Crichlow-Cockburn confirmed that the baby grant facility to new mothers has ended.

Some commentators are urging the government to re-visit its decisions on these welfare programmes in order to provide support to the most vulnerable.

In his mid-year budget review last April 8, Finance Minister Colm Imbert told Parliament: “This government remains absolutely committed to protect the disadvantaged and most vulnerable in our society.”

Imbert said all social programmes would be reviewed, but he pledged that this would be done “in consultation with civil society.”

In recent months, there has been re-imposition of Value Added Tax (VAT) on several previously zero-rated food items.

Inflation has gone up and there have been lay-offs of workers in several sectors.

Some URP workers have not yet received their wages for work for the past two fortnights.

An audit is currently underway to weed out ghost gangs.

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