Social Services To Focus On Grand Bahama
FREEPORT, GB – Minister for Social Services, Melanie Griffin said Thursday that social serves remains a very strong focus of the government headed by Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie.
She said this was pointed out in their charter for governance and “one again under the current prime minister, it has become a full ministry which will bring again full focus to the social issues facing our country.”
On the subject of Social Services work in Grand Bahama, just in terms of food coupons alone, the Department of Social Services cater to more than 4,000 persons a month. This does not includes persons with housing needs, electricity bills, school uniform needs and much more.
The Social Services minister was on an official visit to Grand Bahama where she viewed the various departments and agencies that full under her ministry and talked with the staff. Mrs. Griffin likewise admitted that it also allowed her to renew old acquaintances, in a ministry she previously headed from 2002 to 2007.
Joining the Minister on her tour of the Grand Bahama department were Mrs. Barbara Burrows, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Services; and Ms Mellany Zonicle, Director of Social Services.
The team, along with the Minister responsible for Grand Bahama, Dr. Michael Darville, and his permanent secretary, spoke to the media about Grand Bahama’s needs following the tour, which began on Wednesday morning.
Mrs. Griffin pointed out that while they will focus overall on the social needs facing the country, that some particular attention will be directed at Grand Bahama “which we know has been very hard hit by these difficult economic times.”
The Minister also informed that included in her tour was a visit to some proposed sites for “new or expanded accommodations for Social Services because accommodations has been a very, very real problem for the staff here in Grand Bahama. And, so we were able to visit some sites and we hope to be able to bring some relief to the staff with regards to accommodations.
She likewise informed that they were also able to have a staff meeting and share with the local team the new vision of the government.
Continuing, she said that “it is fair to say that the situation in Grand Bahama is still a very critical one and it is evidence by the pain and suffering that is almost a way of life now for many persons.
“The officers and staff of Social Services in Grand Bahama are to be commended for the yeomen’s work that they have done in the face of extremely difficult circumstances.
“They are under paid, understaffed, they are over worked, they are overwhelmed and in some cases their working conditions is not really what they would like for it to be, or what we would like for it to be, particularly in terms of accommodations and tools and other resources that they need to get the job done. All of this of course, in the face of their own personal challenges,” she said.
Mrs. Griffin pointed out that it became evident in the meeting she had with staffers that “in spite of the challenges that they face, these persons are really committed to what they do. They love their work, and that was expressed to me by several of them, and so I really, really commend them.
“You know, often the public does not get to know what is happening behind the scene. They just see the long line, the long wait to get services. They don’t understand that in the face of the challenges that they face that the workers are really doing a yeoman’s task.
“But we hope in short order to be able to address those challenges so that social services will be much more responsive on a timely basis and an on time basis to the needs of clients who they serve,” she said.
She said that while accommodations is one of the concerns, staffers also has issues with respect to promotions, confirmations, and many seeking to be regularised which has always been a concern for them. She said that they will certainly be looking at ways to address those issues, as well as increasing the manpower.
Focusing on Urban Renewal, she said that is a very real part of the government’s fight against crime and social ills.
“Social Services is a very significant component in Urban Renewal and we will certainly be working very closely with the new manager and the Ministry of Grand Bahama towards ensuring that Urban Renewal meets its mandate as envisioned in its initial launch way back in 2002.
“That concern and that vision were really to provide, again, a physical presence in each community in addressing on a very on time basis concerns of persons in the community. Social Services played a major role then and we will continue to do so at this time,” she said, adding that there is a lot of work to be done, and they are not afraid of hard work.
The Minister also advised of some improvements also planned for her ministry, one of which includes the Social Safety Net Reform.
“With regards to Social Safety Net Reform, that is a project that we are doing with the Inter-American Development Bank, by which we expect to be able to really revolutionise social services to the point where it becomes modernised.
Right now, it is very labour intensive, very paper intensive. We are expecting to be able to computerised it to the point where it makes everything a lot easier.
Minister for Grand Bahama, Dr. Michael Darville applauded the minister and team for their visit to Grand Bahama and likewise thanked the staffers in Grand Bahama “who have been with us over the last five to seven years fighting a very aggressive battle to deal with excessive unemployment and job-less-ness that is presently on Grand Bahama.
“Because of their efforts many persons on this island have seen much relief and I want to commend them for continuing to support the efforts of the Department of Social Services here on Grand Bahama,” he stated
Mr. Darville added the Ministry of Grand Bahama intends to work very closely with the Ministry of Social Services and they will come up with the right formula on how to deal with the elements of poverty on Grand Bahama.
He added that this will be done in conjunction with the Ministry of Works and Urban Development as they begin to address the homelessness that presently exists on Grand Bahama.
“We realise for the last three to four years as we move in the inner city areas we are seeing pockets of individuals who have no where to live, no where to go, and we realise the demand on Social Services is bursting from the seams here on Grand Bahama.
“The Minister and I intend to work very closely to address some of these pressing concerns and begin to plot a way forward to bring the relief that is necessary for Grand Bahama.
“In the Charter of Governance, we promised the residents of Grand Bahama relief and job opportunities.
“We have realised in the Ministry of Grand Bahama that our first approach would be to address the needs that exist on Grand Bahama as we begin to organise ourselves for job creation and begin the process of training and re-training our staff here on Grand Bahama as we begin to develop the industrial sector, and our tourism sector to create sustainable jobs,” he said.
By SIMON LEWIS
Bahamas Information Services