Campbell: School uniform applicants assisted based on need
Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell said on Tuesday that despite a decrease in the budget for school uniform assistance and a new policy, applicants will be assisted based on their need.
The Department of Social Services’ uniform budget has been decreased from $360,000 last year to $270,000 this year, a difference of $90,000.
Acting Director of Social Services Lillian Quant-Forbes confirmed last week that the department will only help a maximum of two children in a family that qualifies.
Quant-Forbes also said that for those applicants who received uniform assistance last year, their applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
The new policy has received some backlash.
Speaking to the matter outside Cabinet, Campbell said, “The policy of the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development as it relates to uniform assistance is similar to all of its assistance problems; it is there for the needy.
“I emphasize ‘needy’ because there is some gray line about who is in need and who is not.
“The department has a procedure of assessment in determining who is in need.
“There was some talk about persons who received assistance last year, not receiving assistance this year. I want to make it emphatically clear that persons will be assisted according to their need.
“So all persons who are in need are eligible and entitled to apply, they will be assessed on their own merits and demerits, so there’s no hard and fast rule that if you were assisted last year, you will not be assisted this year.”
Pressed on the possibility that some children may fall through the cracks with the new policy, Campbell said, “There is always a possibility, not just with social assistance, with assistance for any ministry.
“There is always that possibility that there are some things that you want to do, that you can’t do.
“So that’s not confined only to the Ministry of Social Services.
“But I would have said earlier, based on our resources and the assessed need, persons will be assisted, notwithstanding the speculation that if there are four children, only two will be assisted or if you were assisted last year, you won’t be assisted.”
Asked about concerns from some who said parents weren’t told about the new policy in advance, Campbell said, “I can’t speak too much to the timeline. You would appreciate that I am just stepping into the department.
“We are a people who naturally wait until the last minute, but we won’t, when we speak out, say that we waited until the last minute and that’s why we weren’t assisted in a timely fashion.
“Mindful that there [are] some assessments that have to be done, that you won’t just walk in this morning and walk out with a set of uniforms.
“Persons ought to appreciate that you need to start the process early enough so that you can be assisted early enough.”