Thursday, August 9, 2018
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAIN and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson has said the government should reverse its budget cut for school uniform assistance, the first Free National Movement parliamentarian to criticise the move.
“I’m concerned with the Ministry of Social Services’ position to cut the budget for uniform assistance,” he said in a statement yesterday.
“This action directly affects the most vulnerable in our society particularly those living in our inner-city areas. The government has a strong focus in empowering the poor as seen in the Over-the-Hill initiatives and the Economic Empowerment Bill. While I am mindful of the government’s financial constraints the Ministry of Social Services’ uniform assistance programme should not be affected particularly at a time when the cost of living has increased.”
The Department of Social Services’ uniform budget has been decreased from $360,000 last year to $270,000 this year.
Last week, acting Director of Social Services Lillian Quant-Forbes said the department will only help a maximum of two children in a family that qualifies.
She also told explained that for those applicants who received uniform assistance last year, their applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
On Tuesday, Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell said there was no “hard and fast rule” in the department regarding assistance, reiterating that people will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Last evening, Mr Robinson said he had a “frank conversation” with Mr Campbell after his initial statement and is assured no one who is needy and meets the stipulation will be turned away.
“The minister has assured me that no individual who applies for uniform assistance and meets the criteria will be disenfranchised,” he said. “The people of Bain and Grants Town thank the minister and his team for showing their continued compassion and understanding for the most vulnerable in society. As the member of Parliament for Bains and Grants Town, I will continue to advocate for access, encouragement and opportunity for my people. No matter the sacrifice, I remain willing, ready and able to fight for the great people pf Bain and Grants Town.”
Yesterday, the ministry released a statement responding to controversy on the matter.
“We have become aware that there are reports in social media which provide a false position relative to the uniform assistance programme of the Department of Social Services,” the statement noted.
“Please note that in an effort to ensure that assistance is rendered to the most needy of our country, all applications are accepted for consideration on a case-by-case basis.
“We wish to assure all concerned that persons who qualify will be assisted.”
Mr Robinson’s criticism comes weeks after he broke with his party to vote against value added tax’s increase to 12 percent, citing the burden the tax would inflict on residents of his poor constituency. He was one of four FNM MPs to vote against the move.
His decision cost him his job as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation.