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Bahamas Social assistance programmes continue despite increased demands due to COVID-19

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#NASSAU, The Bahamas – May 13, 2020 – Employees across the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development are continuing to fulfill the needs of their regular clients while working to address the influx of new requests for social assistance as a result of the presence of the COVID-19 Pandemic in The Bahamas.

These include employees from the Department of Social Services, the Department of Gender and Family Affairs, the Department of Rehabilitative Welfare Services and Urban Renewal, in addition to key Divisions and entities such as the Disability Affairs Division, Community Affairs Division, Community Support Services Division, and the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities and its Secretariat.

Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell, utilizing technology to conduct regular online meetings with the senior directorate of the Ministry in accordance with the social distancing measures that have been implemented. (BIS Photo/Matt Maura)

Employees continue to work on the frontlines of the Government of The Bahamas’ overall response to the COVID-19 Pandemic along with the other government agencies that have been declared essential services.

(Social assistance refers to government programmes that provide a minimum level of income support to individuals and households living in poverty. These programmes lend support either in the form of direct cash transfers or through a variety of in-kind benefits, for example, food coupons and certain other subsidies.)

Department representatives are called upon to provide assistance to regular clients in areas such as disability allowance, foster care assistance, food assistance for families, older persons and persons with disabilities, and assistance with payments of utilities (electricity and water), among others.

Personnel are also on call around the clock to provide access for persons in the event any domestic violence and child abuse matters occur, while others are working within communities to help address anger management and temperament issues.

Staff assigned to the various residential facilities for children and senior citizens, in addition to the juvenile facilities, are also at work ensuring that these facilities continue to operate at an optimum level. Rental cars that are used for deliveries during the day are also being used to transport staff in need of transportation, to the various facilities in order to accommodate their shifts.

The Department of Social Services continues to provide regular food assistance to its regular clients, in addition to Emergency Food Assistance for walk-in clients seeking food assistance as a result of the presence of the COVID-19 Pandemic in The Bahamas.

Those latter persons are provided with a $50 Food voucher to address their immediate need, and are later assessed by social assistance providers to be placed on the Temporary Food Assistance Programme upon which the client can be placed for up to three years.

Social Services personnel, who have been allowed to work from home in order to follow the social distancing guidelines – have joined colleagues at the centres in ensuring that assessments on the many new applicants as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, are done as quickly as possible. 

The Department’s regular clients who receive food assistance through The Bank of The Bahamas VISA Prepaid Card, have funds uploaded to the approximately 8,000 cards each month for recipients throughout The Bahamas.

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The Department has also been managing the provision of special food assistance to the thousands of persons in the tourism industry who were placed on a reduced work hours with effect from March 1, 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic; and has been working in partnership with the National Emergency Management Agency, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, and various non-government organizations to promote food safety and security.

Meanwhile, team members from the Urban Renewal Department continue to have a presence in the communities within which Urban Renewal Centres have been established. Teams have distributed food packages to senior citizens utilizing curbside distribution policies, all while ensuring that the Ministry of Health’s protocols were strictly followed in the collection, preparation and distribution of those food packages.

(Plans are underway for similar deliveries in Grand Bahama, Abaco and the Family Islands in order to be consistent with Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell’s mandate “of not being just New Providence-centric.”)

Additionally, Dr. Eric Fox, an Anger Management and Temperance Expert and Consultant with the Urban Renewal Commission, who has done tremendous work in the inner-city communities over the past 32 years, continues to perform those services within the various communities — utilizing various forms of social media and other communication to remain “in close contact” with graduates and participants of his programme.

The Executive Director of Teen Challenge, Dr. Fox has also reached out to those members of the public at-large who may need his assistance, while adhering to the personal distancing protocols.

The Ministry has also made provisions for the community of persons with disabilities who are not clients of the Department to provide their information via telephone to the Social Workers at the Disability Affairs Division so that they can receive Emergency Food Assistance. They are required to show their ID’s upon collection. Persons with disabilities can contact the Disability Affairs Division at telephone: 325-2251/2 for assistance.

Bahamas Phased ReOpening plan

Additionally, officials at the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, and its Secretariat, have also been diligently working to ensure that the needs of the community of persons with disabilities are being met.

The Commission has established a 24hr call and WhatsApp line at 376-8328. The community of persons with disabilities can also register online through the Ministry’s link on the government’s website: www.bahamas.gov.bs. They may also email the Disabilities Commission at Disabilitiescommission@bahamas.gov.bs.

“The Ministry’s response to COVID-19, through its various Departments and Divisions, takes into account the needs of our most vulnerable groups of clients consisting of our children, senior citizens and persons with disabilities, in addition to our regular clients and those persons who now find themselves in need of social assistance as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell said.

“We have endeavoured to use every avenue to remain accessible to not only our community of persons with disabilities, but those who are generally in need.

“I extend my sincere thanks to my staff who have persevered through the increased demands of Hurricane Dorian (2019) and have now risen, yet again, to the challenge of executing their normal duties while providing special assistance to those in need as a result of the economic fallout from COVID-19. Many do so amidst fears for their own safety and that of their families,” Minister Campbell added.

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Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Immigration Ministers make appearance on TCI Radio Talk Show

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TheBahamas, November 25, 2022 – “We have a humanitarian concern of course but we can only absorb so much” was how Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service in The Bahamas addressed the issue of the UN constantly nudging Caribbean countries about the deportation of migrants and recommending that it not be done.

He was speaking Thursday November 24 with Cheryl and Zhavargo on First Edition which airs on RTC FM.

While acknowledging that the UN offices likely ‘have to do what they do’ Minister Mitchell  explained that the current irregular migrants trying to get into the Bahamas did not fit the bill of ‘refugees’ as defined by the UN.

“We have a treaty obligation that says that if people have a fear of persecution in their home country that we have an obligation to take them in as asylum seekers. The people who come through on these boats from the south of us are not asylum seekers. They are afraid of poverty and that’s a difficult issue but in a legal sense we’re not obligated to embrace people on that basis.”

He cited a study that had found, on any given day there were around 7,000 illegal migrants in The Bahamas trying to get to the US maintaining that his chain of islands had to take a stand on the issue.  The Foreign Affairs minister acknowledged that  TCI was in an identical situation, citing also the the cultural effects of irregular migration.

“There is a cleavage which has developed in our own society over this; people are very concerned that we could lose our identity if we do not get on top of it.”

Earlier this year Arlington “new sheriff in town” Musgrove, Minister of Immigration and Border Services in the Turks and Caicos had described statements calling on surrounding countries to do more to assist persons fleeing Haiti as “reckless and misguided.”

“Haiti has a population of 11.6 million people. How could any small developing state like the Turks and Caicos Islands assist that number of people or even the smallest fraction of them? We have a population of some 47,000 persons, and our health care, education and other social systems remain fragile and could never withstand an influx of refugees. This would be a risk to our very own livelihood,” he had said.

He was interviewed in the same show on Thursday prior to Mitchell and expressed a similar determination to crack down on illegal migration.

“I want to stress this. If we catch anyone harbouring illegals, it could be my mommy, she’s going up. We cannot tolerate this. We’re catching the sloops so my Haitian brothers and sisters should stress to them don’t waste your money we’re sending you back.”

Turks and Caicos, this year passed a law, doubling fines and prison times for individuals harbouring illegal migrants.

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Former Bahamian Cabinet minister defends record amid ongoing police investigation

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

#TheBahamas, November 25, 2022 – Former Youth, Sports and Culture Minister, Lanisha Rolle is reportedly currently under investigation due to several allegations that came up during her tenure; she however knows nothing of this alleged criminal investigation.

After the minister resigned – unceremoniously –  in February 2021 with little explanation, the ministry was locked down by the Prime Minister for an audit of the National Sports Authority, which fell under her ministry.

Auditor General Terrance Bastin revealed that unauthorised contracts had been issued, some of which were later forwarded to the NSA for payment. Three cheques to contractors were also found, which were paid to individuals and then collected by a senior ministry official.

Despite the allegations, Rolle said she upheld cabinet standards and good governance during her tenure. She added that a minister is not always aware of “everything in a ministry at any given time.”

Rolle said she has not yet been approached by the RBPF regarding the audit findings.  Having served as a member of the Police Force for 11 years herself, Rolle told a crush of media on Wednesday (November 23) that she continues to trust that they will follow the legal process and in due time, the truth of her innocence will be revealed.

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MYSC set to begin training for National Youth Guard

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Robyn Adderley, BIS

#FREEPORT, The Bahamas, November 25, 2022 – Officials from the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Culture along with members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force and Defence Force toured the Police Training College on Tuesday, November 22 in preparation of the start of the Bahamas National Youth Guard training programme.

Sandena Neely, Head of the Division of Youth, explained that the Bahamas National Youth Guard is a programme designed to train young Bahamians to serve during a national disaster.

Participants are to be between the ages of 18 and 25 and Bahamians willing to serve their country.

“In the event of a natural disaster, we want to implement a strategy where young Bahamians are going to be able to facilitate being a part of every part of the national disaster plan from prevention and mitigation all the way to recovery.”

She explained that they were touring the Police College in Grand Bahama because it is the proposed site for their three-month training. Training starts in January and will include Bahamians nationwide to be trained, skilled and certified so that they can return to their communities and serve.

The 27-month programme starts with three months of training, followed by three months of internship during which time they will receive a stipend, and then they will be on-call for the remaining 21 months. If they are called to serve during that period, they will receive an additional stipend.

While touring the campus, the delegation started with the auditorium where most of the time would be spent. In there, along with the all-purpose room, there are three classrooms and one computer lab.

The delegation was comprised of Ministry of Youth officials Undersecretary Montez Williams, Ms. Neely, Deputy Director of Sports Northern Bahamas Norris Bain, Youth Programmes Coordinator for the Grand Bahama Office Carla Brown-Roker, Programme Officer Kenneth Frazier, Youth Officer Kenneth Miller, Communications Officer Lamar Matthews and Kree Hanna, Administrative Assistant. From the Royal Bahamas Police Force there was ACP Dellareece Ferguson, ACP Kenwood Taylor, ACP Craig Stubbs, ACP Theophilus Cunningham and Assistant Superintendent Randolph Deleveaux.  Daryl Jones represented the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.

Then it was off to touring the dormitories that are equipped to house 32 males and 12 females.

The Bahamas National Youth Guard is being facilitated by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and joined by partners from the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, NEMA, DRA, Social Services, the National Drug Council, the Ministry of Health and Wellness and others.

Programme Officer, Kenneth Frazier, Youth Officer at the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Culture said training will begin the second week in January in Grand Bahama. The focus is on Grand Bahama and Abaco because those two islands are hardest hit by storms.

“We understand that people here are aware and understand what is needed for the persons in this programme.”

When disasters strike, he said, people within their own communities ought to be able to assist as soon as possible. As such, the call has gone out all over the country to get people to sign up for the programme.

“The idea is to have people within each community to have the skills needed to help mitigate response every part of the national disaster.”
The delegation then paid a courtesy call on the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry for Grand Bahama, Melvin Seymour, when they shared details of the programme.

According to Neely, “Stakeholders are the way that we operate. They are our arms, our feet, our legs. They help us to walk and help us to service. We are a youth development agency, but we know when and where to look for our partners who can help us to bring programmes to life.”

The programme, Ms. Neely further explained, came to being because it is important for residents to be able to assist themselves.

She closed with, “We want to build a generation of Bahamians who are able to help ourselves whenever a disaster or some emergency happens in our country.”

 

Photo Captions:

Header: A group from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, led by Undersecretary Montez Williams, travelled to Grand Bahama to tour the Police Training College where the three-month training programme for the National Youth Guard is set to begin in January. The tour took place on Tuesday, November 22 and included staff from the Ministry of Youth, the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. (BIS Photo/Andrew Miller)

1st insert: A tour of the dorms at the Police Training College was on the agenda as the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture is set to begin a three-month training programme for the Bahamas National Youth Guard in January. Sandena Neely, Head of the Division of Youth, is seen discussing what will be needed during the tour on Tuesday, November 22. (BIS Photo/Andrew Miller)

2nd insert:  A delegation from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force on Tuesday, November 22, toured the classrooms of the Police Training College in Freeport. The three-month training programme for the Bahamas National Youth Guard is set to begin the second week in January. (BIS Photo/Andrew Miller)

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