Minister of Social Development Frederick Stephenson (File photo).

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Some Vincentians are abusing the social welfare system here, collecting benefits from several office or programmes.

“… we have to put a cap on these in order that everyone gets a full share of the social welfare services of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Minister of Social Development Frederick Stephenson told Parliament during the Budget Debate yesterday.

“There are too many persons in our country who abuse the social welfare system of this government. They will go to the Prime Minister’s Office and receive social welfare benefits. They would come to the Family Affairs Division and receive social welfare benefits. They will go to the Ministry of Health and receive social welfare benefits. They will go to the NIS and receive social welfare benefits,” he said.

According to Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, 5,800 Vincentians receive Public Assistance.

They include the elderly poor, persons who are sick and poor, and deserving children of poor parents.

Additionally, the National Insurance Service (NIS) gives 1,500 Vincentians non-contributory benefits every fortnight, bringing to 7,300, or 7 per cent of the population, the number of Vincentians who receive structured monetary assistance.

Gonsalves said this is “a not insignificant number, reflecting the love and care which this government and our people have for the poor, the indigent and the economically marginalised among us.

“Some critics of the extent of the public assistance programme of the central government and of the non-contributory programmes of the NIS assert that the numbers of recipients are too large and the payments, too generous, but my government respectfully disagrees with these critics. We shall continue in a focused manner to protect the poor and lift them out of poverty in an on-going, sustainable manner,” he said.

This year’s budget provides EC$18.8 million for the Family Affairs Division of the Ministry of Social Development, which manages the Public Assistance programme.

A further EC$200,000 has been allocated for social welfare at the Office of the Prime Minister and an EC$510,000 transport subsidy at the Ministry of Transport for students.

EC$2.33 million has been allocated for the Lewis Punnett Home, a residence for the elderly poor, and $220,000 million for social welfare in the Ministry of Health.

“This Unity labour Party government delivers to the poor and that is why we are on this side of this honourable house today,” Stephenson said.

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