MINISTER of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, recently disclosed that public assistance will be made perpetual for persons with permanent illnesses and chronic issues. This development is in keeping with a promise she made after taking up the ministerial post. She had expressed that the ministry’s main focus will be centered on vulnerable groups as part of efforts to alleviate the poverty cycle in Guyana. While providing an update on the ministry’s progress thus far, Minister Persaud spoke about the Public Assistance Programme. “I want to say that public assistance will be permanent for people who have permanent/ chronic issues, but it’ll be temporary for those that we can work with to get them financially independent, so that’s where we are going with that,” the minister posited.
With the implementation of the new Poor Law Commission headed by Amanda Richards, it was articulated that the list of persons who have applied for public assistance will be reviewed by the Board of Guardians that is allocated to each region. Moreover the minister stated that it now falls within the hands of the commission to scrutinize the list, to get people on the list and to help those who can be transitioned off if they no longer have to depend on public assistance. Additionally, Minister Persaud related that a finite amount of money was allocated to the Public Assistance Programme. Though the sum was increased from $12, 000 to $14,000, she said the reality still remains that her ministry cannot facilitate all of the requests that are made by vulnerable citizens. However, assistance can be given though some of the ministry’s other programmes, she added.
Public assistance is a temporary financial measure designed to assist the infirm, aged, handicapped, orphans, persons affected by HIV and all other persons who cannot adequately maintain their households. The programme is subjected to periodic reviews to ensure eligibility. Boards of Guardians are responsible for reviewing requests for public assistance that are guided by the Poor Release Act which considers the social and economic circumstances of individuals requesting assistance. The Poor Law Commission’s authority includes consideration, amendment, discontinuation and restoration of the relief granted by the local Boards of Guardians.
This is done based on reports presented by social services officers, who are required to investigate each claim in collaboration with relevant entities, such as the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) in cases of medical conditions and disability.