Social Services: A Sham
As the country’s economic climate has worsened in recent years, more and more Bahamians have found it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. According to statistics released in June of 2014, the level of poverty in the Bahamas has risen steadily since 2001 when the Bahamas Living Conditions Survey (BLCS) calculated the rate at 9.3%. At that time the poverty line was $2,863. Now in 2015, it is estimated that a staggering 43 thousand persons in this country currently live under the poverty line representing 12.8% of the entire population.
During the mid-year budget debate, further statistics revealed by Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin painted a dismal picture that cemented for the record the extreme conditions facing our people.
The advent of Value Added Tax (VAT) only further threatens to exacerbate an already contentious situation. Since January 1, Bahamians have been forced to pay even more for basic items such as food, electricity and clothing; all while the government again devises a plan to further tax the country to fund National Health Insurance (NHI).
In light of these obviously difficult circumstances, it is even more troubling to learn that the country’s social services programs – which so many Bahamian families have become reliant on – have morphed into nothing more than a sham rather than attempt to truly assist struggling families.
Just this weekend, hundreds of individuals gathered in lines outside the department’s office on Horseshoe Drive. As part of its continued community outreach the DNA’s Women’s Alliance was present to provide waiting patrons with hot tea, cocoa, bottled water and other snack items FREE OF CHARGE while they waited to be seen.
A short time later however, supervisors at the office arrived and demanded that the DNA women leave the premises or be reported for trespassing on Government Property. The DNA Women’s Alliance team was forced to disconnect the electrical outlet that was being used to keep the beverages warm and were instead relegated to the area across the street.
After prohibiting the DNA Women’s Alliance from carrying out their work on the department’s grounds – which again was being offered FREE OF CHARGE – officials at the department then instructed an on duty security guard to SELL chips to the very persons, who, just minutes earlier were receiving free food items from the DNA.
Clearly the reason DNA Women’s Alliance was chased from the building’s sidewalks was because their efforts were cutting into the profits of those operating that office.
In a time when so many persons question where their next meal will come from, officials at the Department of Social Services seem more concerned with playing politics with the livelihoods of those it is mandated to protect rather than actually protecting them.
It is both disturbing and despicable that these individuals would rather force already struggling persons to pay for snacks while they wait, than see them FED FOR FREE by members of the DNA.
Despite the apparent inability for government officials to do right by the citizenry of this nation, the DNA and its members will not be deterred. We will continue to do whatever is in our power to assist Bahamians where possible. We in the DNA will continue being our brothers’ keeper. We will not let this stop us from being Good Samaritans and Good Citizens. This is what we do!
DNA Women’s Alliance, President