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Leacock wants public assistance for NDP constituents

Leacock wants public assistance for NDP constituents
Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, St Clair Leacock

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Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, St Clair Leacock, said last week that no member of the New Democratic Party (NDP) has ever been able to get public assistance for any of their constituents.

Leacock made the comment in Parliament, while Minister of National Mobilisation, Frederick Stephenson, was contributing to debate on the 2020 budget.

Leacock asked the Minister if he was aware of a mechanism which any member of the NDP could use to get the Ministry to acknowledge persons who NDP politicians think may need to be on the Public Assistance Program.

He said the question also relates to the Homecare for the Elderly Program.

Going on, Leacock said that he has been in the House of Assembly for 19 years and has never been able to get even one person on public assistance, through the policies of the government, or the Ministry of National Mobilisation.

“…and I know of no member of this side who has ever got any body on public assistance through the corrupt process,” said Leacock who added that the public assistance policy is not conducive to Good Governance.

“You are preaching something that is false,” Leacock told Stephenson.

In response, the Stephenson said that the government takes care of all the elderly people in the country, and, as Minister he has never been approached by any member of the NDP to say they had gone to any public official to ask for help and did not receive it.

“I don’t know why the opposition always wants to play politics whenever I speak on public assistance,” Stephenson remarked while stressing that every person who goes to the Ministry for whatever type of assistance, usually gets it.

Adding to the debate, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, said there is a Public Assistance Board, and, at the Ministry, an official is the secretary to that board and that person does assessments.
“Assessments are done, and one can go and make a representation to the relevant person there and the matter will come at the Public Assistance Board on the advice of the professionals. That is how the system works and that is the way it also works for me,” said Dr. Gonsalves.

Stephenson also noted that currently, there are 350 people receiving home help. He said some of them come from good families, but they are neglected. He added also that taking care of the poor and marginalised is part of the government’s responsibility, and this year, the budget has funds for training more home helpers.

It was also noted that this year, the government will conduct a legal review of the Public Assistance Act as the existing Act was last reviewed in 1990 and needs updating.

Stephenson said also, that in 2019, some 13,000 persons received assistance from the Ministry in areas of public assistance, transport allowance, meal allowance etc.

He added that there are 600 young people on the Youth in Service-YES- Program, 12,305 children in the school co-operative program, while 55 single parents were assisted in 2019.

Assistance was given to help 75 teen mothers return to school.

Health related assistance to the tune of $49,000, was given in 2019 to 249 persons below the poverty line, and another $36,350 was provided for rental assistance for 17 families below the poverty line who needed shelter, being victims of fire.

There were 12 child protection and justice campaigns from which 450 persons benefited, while in the Ministry’s effort to facilitate the protection and inclusion of vulnerable and marginalise groups, 314 child abuse victims, 92 victims of domestic violence, 10 ex-prisoners, 294 persons with disabilities and 2319 elderly persons were assisted.