NASSAU, The Bahamas — The Government has implemented special initiatives to help ease the financial burden of persons who became unemployed or were placed on reduced working hours, as a result of the worldwide economic crisis, which also impacted The Bahamas.
During the monthly meeting of the Rotary Club of Southeast Nassau on Wednesday, December 15, Minister of State for the Ministry of Labour and Social Development the Hon. Loretta Butler-Turner said the Government has committed much to social outreach and social development and will continue to do so as circumstances dictate.
“The Department of Social Services of the Ministry of Labour and Social Development is the principle agency that administers the country’s social safety net programmes and the Government has ensured that adequate funds are allocated annually for these,” Mrs Butler-Turner said.
The programmes include: food assistance, rent assistance, assistance with utility payments, a disability allowance for children who are not yet eligible for Invalidity Assistance from the National Insurance Board, small house repairs for senior citizens and persons with disabilities, foster care allowance, uniform allowance, fire relief and burial assistance.
“Persons take full advantage of these programmes and in New Providence in the last six months, the Department expended $259,000 for utility payments; $427,420 in rental assistance and $118,000 for the Special Disability Allowance for Children,” Mrs Butler-Turner said.
In New Providence for Food Assistance, which is the most utilised of all the programmes, just over $2 million was expended at one supplier between July and October, 2010 and just under half a million at another supplier between July and mid-November 2010, she added. During the Christmas Season the Department of Social Services does not create special assistance programs.
However, Mrs Butler-Turner said numerous churches and civic organisations request that the Department identify individuals and families in need so as to make special presentations to them to make the season brighter.
“We are always happy to assist with such requests and the families are greatly appreciative of the extras and those items that the Department may not be able to supply.”
The Minister of State also emphasised that the Ministry has launched the expansion of the Department of Social Services hotline for persons with depression. The hotline number is 322-2763.
“This initiative is the result of a partnership with the Ministry, Grant Thornton Bahamas and the Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation and through it 21 counsellors will man the 24-hour hotline during December and January to receive calls from persons who may be feeling depressed and overwhelmed during the season.”
While many are experiencing much joy and happiness during this time of the year, there are others who, for any number of reasons, are not and may be overcome with depression, Mrs Butler-Turner said.
“We have noted with alarm the recent increase in suicides and attempted suicides in our country and through this initiative we hope that persons who find themselves at this point will reach out and call the hotline for help or a relative or friend may call on their behalf,” she said.
By Llonella Gilbert
Bahamas Information Services