Statement of Glenys Hanna Martin, Member of Parliament for the Englerston Constituency, Shadow Minister for Social Services and Community Development, 1st August, 2018.
We have just been apprised of the government’s policy on Social assistance for school uniforms. We are particularly concerned about two (2) specific guidelines for assistance namely:
1) That no more than two (2) children in any household may be assisted; and
2) If assistance was obtained last year no applicant will be assisted except in “extreme or extenuating circumstances”.
This is a drastic shift from a time-worn policy where assistance was based on qualifying need. This new policy has the potential of marginalizing untold households and very likely disrupting the education of many children.
It is also of note that the allocation for uniform assistance has been reduced in this year’s budget by almost one-half as compared to the allocation in the 2016/2017 budget. This is particularly alarming as the most recent unemployment numbers show no appreciable reduction in the number of people out of work.
We are seeing more of the same from a government clearly insensitive to the human suffering that is being experienced by many in this country.
Many persons receiving food assistance including elderly and disabled persons whose cards have expired have been without assistance for months thereby causing great hardship.
There have been occasions when people seeking help at the Department have been referred to charitable organizations such as Red Cross or Great Commissions among others. This is appearing more and more as a policy of abandonment of the primary and fundamental role of our social safety net.
I call on the new Minister to immediately review these policies and affirm and confirm that people who have qualifying need be it food or assistance with school uniforms for their children are not turned away.
We are reminded of the PM’s recent comments in the House of Assembly when in proclaiming his commitment to the poor he recited Matthew Chapter 25 verses 35 to 40…“35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
This drastic cut in social assistance for our children living in poverty conditions is contrary to the recent rhetoric heard in Parliament on the Over-The-Hill initiative.
The Minister of Social Services and Community Development is being called upon to immediately reverse this draconian policy.