Editor: It is with great disbelief and frustration that we respond to Valerie Docherty’s announcement of a $1.9- million savings in her budget (Community Services & Seniors) and the statement that “we will never say no to anybody who is eligible for their programs.“ What cloud is Ms. Docherty and her government living on that they believe more Islanders are working and less in need?
As part of a worldwide Christian organization that assists and advocates for the poor, we deal directly with the needy in our communities and see first hand the struggles of Island families and Island seniors. We assist, mostly, with the very basic need of food and clothing and our requests are continually rising.
If it is indeed true that Social Services do not turn away anyone that is eligible, then this department had better take a closer look at what they consider “eligible.” Close to 75 per cent of those we help on a regular basis are social service clients who cannot make ends meet and are only able to stretch their assistance to cover 2-3 weeks of their monthly stipend.
More and more are unable to pay for utilities and rent as they attempt to put food on the table. Also on the rise, is the need for assistance for medical transportation and even medication for low-income workers who come to us after approaching Social services for help only to be turned away?
Rates paid to Social Service clients have been low for many years and, for as many years, advocates have made this known to elected officials only to have it fall on deaf ears. Low-income earners are being denied any assistance to help with basic needs because of the existing eligibility criteria. The time is now for this government to show a real concern and interest in its people and to treat needy Islanders with dignity.
- Judy Barrett, on behalf of the Holy Redeemer Society, St. Vincent DePaul