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Social protection changes to guard the vulnerable

Changes to Barbados’ social protection system are essential to guard probably the most vulnerable and reply to “shocks” to the system.

Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Kirk Humphrey, underscored the importance, noting that Government had already begun the technique of making the essential changes to its system because it sought to restructure the social services sector.

He made this disclosure as he addressed the opening of a Shock-Responsive Social Protection within the Caribbean training programme on the Accra Beach Resort and Spa on Tuesday.

It was hosted by the World Food Programme (WFP) in partnership with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). It also saw the Ministry being presented with 95 tablets from the WFP to further the digitisation process in Barbados.

Noting that the country had a “relatively strong” social protection system for a very long time, Mr. Humphrey explained the restructuring process would see the amalgamation of the National Disabilities Unit, the Welfare Department, the National Assistance Board and the Child Care Board. Nevertheless, it would also involve a legal and administrative framework, which is able to see the introduction of laws.

Mr. Humphrey outlined that while there was presently no laws to guard the elderly in Barbados, his Ministry was expecting to have the ultimate policy by the tip of next month, and draft laws by early next 12 months.

“Now we have the draft laws for individuals with disabilities. We even have laws…[on] the Child Protection Policy. We’re rather a lot higher off than we were a 12 months ago,” he said.

It was also disclosed that the Ministry, in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank, was preparing a paper to take to Cabinet to permit for the conduct of a Poverty Assessment of the country to assemble the essential data to feed into the social protection systems.

“I’m convinced that that is going to provide us the extent of data that we want to give you the option to make proper decisions; the extent of information will allow us to intervene, to comprehensively and cohesively deliver goods, services, policies and programmes…,” Mr. Humphrey stated.

The Minister further noted there also needed to be a better synergy between the emergency services and Government during shocks to the system. These shocks, he said, could take the shape of an earthquake, hurricane, ash fall and even the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If we’re in a position to construct out higher systems, then we’re in a position to higher reply to loads of this stuff,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Representative and Country Director of the World Food Programme’s Caribbean Multi-Country Office, Regis Chapman, said roughly 4.1 million people within the Caribbean were finding it difficult to fulfill their basic food needs and were classified as being “food insecure”.

“In Barbados, we estimate that around 52 per cent of respondents of our survey with the CARICOM Secretariat in August of this 12 months, were either moderately or severely food insecure,” he said, noting that in comparison with 33 per cent in February 2022.

He warned that individuals may very well be left further behind if social protection systems weren’t equipped to succeed in them “before it is simply too late”.

Nevertheless, Mr. Chapman outlined that the WFP was in search of to strengthen social protection, disaster management and food systems, particularly in response to crises.

“When national crises occur, WFP supports with food and money assistance, emergency logistics and telecommunications by partnering with CDEMA and governments to succeed in probably the most affected,” Mr. Chapman explained.

Barbados joins Belize, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago in undertaking the training which, amongst other things, is designed to discover the needs and changing vulnerabilities arising from several types of shocks within the Caribbean, and the social protection agencies’ role in addressing them. The four-day training concludes on Friday, October 21.

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