By Lara Pickford-Gordon
A few Catholic institutions and affiliated non-governmental organisations received funding from the State in the 2023 Budget to continue their service to youth, persons with physical disabilities and other vulnerable groups.
In Key Social Programmes and Structural/Institutional Initiatives Funded by the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) 2021–2023 of the Social Sector Investment Programme 2023 (SSIP), $12 million was allocated for the Lady Hochoy Centres. Funds will be disbursed through the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services.
The Corpus Christi Carmelites manage the Lady Hochoy Home and a vocational centre, in Cocorite; Lady Hochoy Home South, Gasparillo and Lady Hochoy School in Penal; and the Memisa Vocational Day Training Centre, Heights of Guanapo, Arima.
Under the Office of the Prime Minister (Gender and Child Affairs), St Dominic’s Children’s Home, Belmont was allocated $15 million, and $1.5 million for refurbishment of ‘Old Bethlehem’, one of the quarters at the Home.
Servol (Service Volunteered for All) founded by the late Fr Gerard Pantin CSSp and former cricketer Wesley Hall in 1970, received the sum of $14.6 million for its Junior Life Centres; $5 million for its Hi Tech and Advanced Skills Training programme and $14 million for Human Development and Skills Training. These subventions are listed to come from the Ministry of Education.
Initiatives in the social sector 2023
Responding to the worsening socioeconomic impacts on the poor and vulnerable from the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services (MSDFS) has shifted its focus towards “empowering the vulnerable to take charge of their own lives by promoting independent living and resilience”, Chapter Three of the SSIP stated. A number of measures were listed to bolster the Ministry’s social protection framework and improve delivery to clients in fiscal 2023.
A consultancy will be implemented for the National Social Mitigation Plan (NSMP) Phase II. “The goal of this Plan is to ease the negative social impacts of the downturn of the national economy and provide responses to the potential social, economic and psychosocial effects associated with the downturn.”
In 2023 as part of Phase II, the Ministry will conduct a nationwide rollout of the Social Services Empowerment Unit (SSEU). The report explains it is a “‘one-stop shop’ for the provision of social services and the Social Transformation and Empowerment Programme Uplifting People (STEP-UP) model.”
The Ministry will develop a Nationwide Campaign on Strategies to ensure personal food security through collaboration with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, and the University of the West Indies to help citizens to provide food for themselves “amidst the increase in local food prices”.
Other initiatives from the NSMP are:
1. the implementation of the Values Attitudes and Behaviours Programme which focuses on raising awareness and will act as a catalyst for behavioural change within the nation as well as providing advice and support to members of society to become civic-minded citizens
2. the establishment of two pilot projects for Community Health and Wellness Centres.
According to the SSIP, “This pilot project will add another dimension to building a resilient society and is expected to contribute to the reduction of stress, violence and crime within our nation.”
The Disability Affairs Unit of the MSDFS will provide workshops to targeted Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that serve persons with disabilities.
“It is envisioned that this training, which will be undertaken in partnership with PAHO [Pan American Health Organization], will increase the technical abilities of these NGOs to provide better service to their clients.”
A five-storey Assessment Centre will be constructed to provide “suitable accommodation for client assessment and temporary residence as an immediate alternative to street dwelling”.
The Centre will facilitate the “voluntary and involuntary removal of street dwellers” and provide referrals to treatment and rehabilitation centres/programmes and prepare individuals for treatment or rehabilitation.
The Curbing Offender Recidivism through Entrepreneurship (CORE) is listed for 2023. It is a collaboration between the MSDFS and the Ministry of Education targeting ex-offenders.
The initiative will incorporate the STEP-UP framework to empower individuals and their families to build resilience. “This initiative will be designed specifically to create opportunities for ex-offenders to monetise skills obtained
through the Rehabilitating Inmates through Training and Retraining Programme.”
The main objectives of the programme are to: reduce poverty and dependency on medium to long-term financial support by the State; decrease offender recidivism; reduce incidences of crime; increase economic growth through micro and small enterprise development.