by Roy R. Morris
That was the advice of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to officials of the Welfare Department, after viewing a huge cache of sharp weapons taken from “clients” doing business with its staff.
One source who was at the department’s Roebuck Street office when he toured the complex this morning, said members of staff displayed for the Prime Minister many of the weapons and told him about the frequent threats with which they have to contend.
According to the source, Stuart, who paid close attention to the types of weapon, then advised officials to make an example of the next person who threatened a welfare officer. Another sources said that just this morning an officer was confronted by “a client” who promised to “deal with you” after he did not get his way.
“This thing with the threats and weapons is very serious,” the source said, explaining that the only type of weapon not confiscated so far has been a gun.
In fact, the problem had become so serious that a metal scanner had to be installed at the office in the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited complex on Roebuck Street, where all welfare cases from St. Michael, St. Philip and Christ Church are processed.
The weapons displayed for the Prime Minister this morning, the source said, were enough to fill “a supermarket bag”.
“You have to deal with the weapons issue because very often we have to deal with people who can get really angry when the Welfare Department does not give them the support they believe they should have,” the source told Barbados TODAY.
The situation is compounded, the source added, by persons who speak with a member of Parliament of some other politician “and come here believing that we have to give them the Government money”.
Now, all persons doing business at the office must be scanned and they must sign in so there is a clear trail if something goes wrong.
“Just recently there was a big fight between a guard and this woman who hit him with a bag because she did not get her way — that is what we have to put up with,” the source added.
Meanwhile, General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers, Dennis Clarke, said the union had been aware for some time that Welfare Department workers were frequently threatened by “people who see the welfare officer as the enemy because when certain people send them for money they believe the officer must say yes”.
“The problem is that too often people who are supposed to take these threats seriously fail to,” Clarke added. firstname.lastname@example.org