Member of Parliament (MP) for Englerston and Social Services and Community Development Shadow Minister Glenys Hanna Martin shared her concerns on Friday about the new mandated guidelines for approval on school uniform assistance.
In a statement released Wednesday, Hanna-Martin noted that such guidelines pose transitional challenges.
“We have just been apprised of the government’s policy on social assistance for school uniforms. We are particularly concerned about two specific guidelines for assistance (namely) – that no more than two children in any household may be assisted; and if assistance was obtained last year, no applicant will be assisted except in ‘extreme or extenuating circumstances’.”
According to Hanna-Martin, this new policy is a “drastic shift” from a time-worn policy where assistance was based on qualifying need.
“This new policy,” she said, “has the potential of marginalizing untold households and very likely disrupting the education of many children.”
“It is also of note that the allocation for uniform assistance has been reduced in this year’s budget, by almost one half as compared to the allocation in the 2016/2017 budget.”
She also stated that this policy is particularly alarming as the most recent unemployment numbers show no appreciable reduction in the number of people out of work.
“We are seeing more of the same from a government clearly insensitive to the human suffering that is being experienced by many in this country,” she said.
“Many persons receiving food assistance including elderly and disabled persons whose cards have expired, have been without assistance for month,s thereby causing great hardship.”
She claimed that the Free National Movement (FNM) administration is appearing more and more as a government of abandonment.
“I call on the new minister to immediately review these policies and affirm and confirm that people who have a qualifying need, be it food or assistance with school uniforms for their children, are not turned away,”she said.
“This is a drastic cut in social assistance for our children living in poor conditions, and is contrary to the recent rhetoric heard in Parliament on the Over-the-Hill initiative.”