Clamp down – Public funds must reach the intended person
March 8, 2011
Clamp down – Public funds must reach the intended person

The Family Services Division is moving to clamp down on persons who operate a “business”, by collecting a fee from the elderly and the physically challenged, when they receive public assistance on their behalf.{{more}}

This was disclosed by Cammie Matthews, Head of the Family Services Division in the Ministry of National Mobilization, which is responsible for dispensing public assistance.

“It is possible that some persons might have been doing it as a business, as a means of obtaining finance, where they might charge or be given a portion of it,” said Matthews.

This situation has caused the Family Services Division to put a policy in place from this month, which stipulates that persons collecting public assistance on the behalf of others, will only be able to collect a maximum of five on any single occasion. Matthews said previously, individuals collected up to 15 and 20 public assistance payments.

“We will be closely monitoring from now, because we have to ensure that it goes to who it is intended for, and in these tight economic times, we have to pay great attention to it,” said Matthews.

“We want to ensure public funds reach the target that it is intended for,” said Matthews.

Also, from this month, the Family Services Division will be issuing the first set of ‘Life Assistance Certificates’, which seek to prove that the eligible persons receiving public assistance are alive.

The forms for the adults must be signed and stamped by a Justice of the Peace, a minister of religion, or a gazetted police officer, and be returned to the Family Services Division. For children who are attending school, the Family Services Division is insisting that forms are to be signed by head teachers or principals in the various schools.

“We at the Ministry of National Mobilization have vowed to be more vigilant in this regard as to safeguard public funds and to ensure that the eligible persons receive their money,” said Matthews.

The Government recently increased public assistance: persons who were receiving $160 are now receiving $200 and the elderly, 65 years old and over, who were granted $175, are now receiving $220. The public assistance bill now costs the Government $1 million a month.

Regarding the cost, Matthews said: “We see it as an important area in combatting poverty.”