Two statutory bodies to escape chopping block

Two Government agencies –– the Child Care Board and the National Assistance Board –– will not be affected by the current round of layoffs in the Public Service.

Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development Steve Blackett gave this assurance today during a news conference put on by the Child Care Board to launch Child Month in May.

 Minister of Social Care, Constituency, Empowerment and Community Development, Steve Blackett
Minister of Social Care, Constituency, Empowerment and Community Development, Steve Blackett

He told reporters that no one would be sent home from the statutory bodies which fall under his ministry.

“Fortunately . . . the agencies within our purview of administration were deliberately ring-fenced from the retrenchment process. We had identified very early, in the retrenchment of [public sector] workers, two of the areas that would be protected – that of child care and that of the elderly,” Blackett said.

“Therefore, the agencies or departments that administer or operationalize the looking after of those particular segments of the community have been ring-fenced and protected and therefore no retrenchment occurred at the Child Care Board or the National Assistance Board, the two statutory boards which fall under the administration of this ministry,” he said.

So far workers have been sent home from several state agencies, including the National Conservation Commission, the Transport Board, the National Housing Corporation and the Barbados Agricultural Management Company. This is in keeping with cost-saving measures announced by Government with the aim of reducing the public sector by some 3,500 people.

While the retrenchment exercise continues in earnest, Blackett stressed that no one would be sent home from the Child Care Board, which currently employs 515 people inclusive of relief workers.

However, he noted that a number of affected persons were already seeking assistance from the Welfare Department, which has had an additional $500,000 added to its supplementary vote of $3 million to $4 million per year.

He explained that over the past three years the allocation from the national Budget for the Welfare Department was about $18 million, down from the usual $20 million over three years ago.

Director of the Child Care Board, Joan Crawford, told the media conference that with the ongoing retrenchment and possible increase in cases of those requiring assistance from the Child Care Board, that agency had moved to put measures in place.

“If we get an increase in children, if they are day care there is a ratio under the law that we would have to engage because [for] children under two years [the ratio] is one adult to six children. So we can’t downsize but we would have to, where possible, try to address that.

“With regard, however, to parents and other parties who are being referred, what we would have to do is change our modality of operation. What we would have to do is engage in group work . . . to address the issues,” explained Crawford.

Saying that the organization was “under stress” in meeting demands, Crawford said “the concern of the board is to ensure that what is in the interest of the child is always paramount”.

She said the agency had been fortunate to get assistance through its voluntary and sponsorship programme.

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