February 27, 2009
Elderly to get further financial help

The recently instituted Elderly Support Benefit Programme is expected to cost the National Insurance Services (NIS) $5.8 million over the next 10 years.{{more}}

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves made this declaration as he delivered his ministerial statement in Parliament last Tuesday, February 24.

Dr Gonsalves said that this new benefit which will be afforded 300 persons who “have sweat equity in the land” will further strengthen “old people.”

As he made the announcement, Dr Gonsalves explained that the new benefit is different from the existing non-contributory age assistance and has strong guidelines as it regards who qualify to benefit from this new safety net.

Persons must have been 45 or older on January 5, 1987, must not be employed or receiving any pension income or similar government insistence.

The Prime Minister further stated that the programme is mainly designed for persons who worked in the informal or seasonal sectors.

There are also strict residential requirements, he explained.

Persons that qualify must have lived in St Vincent and the Grenadines for four of the last five years and must have also lived here for at least 25 years since their 20th birthday.

Speaking to SEARCHLIGHT, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace expressed concerns about monies being used by the NIS to fund this benefit.

Eustace said that while he is all in favour of helping the poor, he believes more persons who haven’t contributed to the NIS shouldn’t be added on to it.

He said the government should have reached out to the people it is trying to help through the public assistance programme. (KJ)