Social protection took precedence in 2016
GINA, GUYANA, Thursday, December 29, 2016
The Ministry of Social Protection during the year 2016, assisted in transforming the lives of Guyanese by providing social protection in every form possible.
Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence in her 2016 budget speech declared that during the year, her Ministry would strive to strengthen families, improve welfare and protection of children, and improve conditions for the elderly and conditions for public servants.
Indeed during the year, the ministry was able to achieve several of its set goals to improve the well-being of citizens. Some of the Ministry’s successes in 2016 are as follows:
- Day care centres were issued with directives concerning the minimum standards that had to be put in place to be operational. The requisite staff were employed and the Registration & Licences (R&L) process began for the registration of day care centres. There are 280 day care centres/play schools on record but only 65 % will be able to meet the Minimum Standard. Several sensitisation sessions had to be conducted with the managers and administrators of the centres, as well as inspection done on buildings by the City and Regional engineers and the Fire Department to meet their criterion before the licences can be presented. Through continued preparation, the first batch was presented with their licence.
- During the year, the Ministry teamed up with Social Work students from the University of Guyana (UG) to host an after school and weekend programme for children. This has provided UG students with more experience and practical skills
- The Ministry also collaborated with the Guyana Police Force (GPF) to reduce the incidence of dismissal of criminal cases of abuse of underage girls.
- It also teamed up with the both the Director of Public Prosecutions and the GPF to have a reduction in the length of time it takes to institute criminal charges in cases of child labour, abuse and trafficking in underage girls.
- Additionally, the Child Care and Protection Unit partnered with several Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) including Women Across Differences (WAD) and the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA) to address teenage pregnancy.
Elderly and persons with disabilities
- The meagre $13,125 the elderly were receiving as an Old Age Pension increased to $18, 200.
- Specialists from the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) in collaboration with the Social Protection Ministry helped provide meals with specific dietary requirements for residents with identified illnesses. Two doctors assumed duties to provide round the clock medical service to the residents of the Palms, the Night Shelter and other homes for the elderly.
- An Infirmary was commissioned to provide on-site medical treatment for the residents at the Palms.
- The Board of Industrial Training (BIT) expanded vocational training for differently-abled persons. About 130 disabled persons have been trained.
- In 2016, the Ministry also provided assistance to visually impaired individuals, sponsoring blind cricketers for a tour in the Caribbean, and providing computers for blind students to pursue their studies both at the secondary and university levels.
- The First Lady’s Capacity Building Initiative which seeks to empower beneficiaries through training in managing and sustaining small entrepreneurial ventures, was a success. The training was conducted in all 10 Administrative Regions and approximately 390 female single parents received training in self-reliance and success in business.
- Thirty (30) adolescent mothers from Yarrowkabra, Region Four benefitted from capacity building training. They were empowered to support their peers through awareness sessions on social issues through programmes run by WAD.
- Under the Financial Support for Disadvantaged Persons and Persons in Difficult Circumstances, the Women of Worth (WOW) loan programme, in collaboration with the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI) was resuscitated in 2015 and continued in 2016. Several female single parents benefitted from loans ranging from $100,000 to $250,000.
- Similarly, the People of Worth Entrepreneurial Resources (POWER) loan programme, which provides loans to male single parents and couples already engaged in business ventures, was implemented in September 2016, in collaboration with GBTI. To date, several persons have been screened and recommendations made to GBTI for the processing of loans.
- The Ministry provided small grants to about 150 persons, mainly women, from all the Administrative Regions for vending, poultry rearing, cosmetology and purchase of sewing machines for a women’s group in St. Ignatius, Region Nine.
- For the residents of the Hugo Chavez Centre, the Ministry has not only reviewed the management system, but introduced new programmes including the fish and chicken farms and provision of green houses for agriculture. Through partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture, the process of self-sufficiency began. Currently there are 7,000 tilapias being reared. Very soon, the fully-constructed chicken pens will be filled with birds for eventual consumption and sale on the local market.
- Medical personnel from the Ministry of Public Health have made regular visits to cater for the residents’ physical well-being.
- The Night Shelter now has running water after five years, is cleaned on a daily basis, clothing is available for residents, and washing machines were installed with the help of corporate sponsorship.
- The Gender Affairs Bureau hosted a sensitisation session for media personnel on the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Acts – how they should be reported on and rules and regulations that need to be observed. A national conference on Gender and Development was also hosted and consultations were held in several regions.
- In 2016, the Ministry collaborated with the Sisters of Mercy, who provided housing for male victims of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) under a single unit.
- To this end, a workshop targeting social issues, including teenage pregnancy, child sexual abuse, and TIP among others was hosted in October 2016 by the Canadian High Commission, facilitating 16 Indigenous communities.
Just recently, the Minister of Social Protection, along with Ministers of Public Security, Public Health and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs signed on to the protocol to have the National Task Force for the Prevention of Sexual Violence revived to better address the scourge of domestic violence.
- A total of 3122 persons were placed in jobs through the Central Recruitment and Manpower Agency (CRMA) of the Ministry of Social Protection.
- Collective bargaining in the public sector- the minimum wage in the public service stands at $55,000 per month, increasing from $42,703.
- Through the efforts of government, trade unions and private sector, the minimum wage for the latter has increased from $35,000 to $44,200 per month effective from January 1, 2017.
- As at November 30, 2016 the number of complaints of unfair labour practices lodged stood at 1331, yielding a 20.78 percent reduction.
- From a target of 1500, a total of 1402 persons are to be trained and certified by the end of this year giving a 93 percent achievement in employment.
- The Heavy Duty Equipment Operation (HDEO) training programme which is managed by BIT has been extended to Regions Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight and Ten.
- In collaboration with the Presidential Office on Youth Empowerment, 29 pardoned Youths are being trained in HDEO.
- Acting in collaboration with the First Lady’s Office, 23 persons in the Victoria Youth Development initiative are being trained in the essentials of Information Technology through the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programme.
- A thorough examination of the functional status of co-operative societies was conducted. That analysis has thus far revealed that of 1268 societies on the register just about 8 percent are functioning in a safe manner while 27 percent are retrievable, and can be saved.
- A cross-country fan-out exercise visiting co-operative societies began to determine individual needs and challenges and offer remedial help.
- A Task Force which is in the process of developing a White Paper focusing on the renaissance of the co-operative spirit and movement was established.
Other successes for the Ministry during 2016 include the transformation of the residence of former President of Guyana, Hugh Desmond Hoyte, into a library and museum to preserve his life and legacy.
The Social Protection Ministry during 2016 worked to provide Guyanese with the good life promised by the coalition government. The year saw many accomplishments for children, adults, elderly and even those with disability.
The Ministry will continue to provide social protection for all Guyanese through the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
By Ranetta La Fleur