Minister of Social Development and Family Services Donna Cox, making her contribution to the debate on The Appropriation (Financial Year 2021) Bill, 2020

The Ministry of Social Development has assisted over 170,000 citizens with grants during the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister Donna Cox said in her contribution to the debate on the 2021/2022 Budget in Parliament yesterday.

“As at September 2020, the ministry provided assistance to 173,020 individuals and families at a cost of $329,600,240,” Cox said.

She said from that number, 25,101 families were assisted with top-ups to existing food support, 49,486 families were given food support in cases where a family member was retrenched, terminated or receiving reduce income because of the pandemic and 3,306 pensioners who had applied for food support before were assisted.

Cox said food support was also given to 20,497 families who would have benefited from the School Feeding Programme before. Food vouchers and market boxes were given to 24,999 families in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, while 1,400 families received emergency food hampers, she noted.

She said income support was given to 42,451 existing beneficiaries of the Public Assistance and Disability Assistance Grant programmes and income support was provided to 47,774 families where a member lost their job or suffered from reduced income. Rental assistance was also given to 3,770 families, Cox said.

She said the ministry also provided support to 174,798 families through its core social programmes.

Cox said the ministry was well aware that it could not accomplish all it set out to do alone. She said this is why various non-governmental organisations were given millions in state subventions in fiscal 2020.

“In fiscal 2020, the ministry disbursed the sum of $47,278,912.00 in subventions to 22 NGOs, inclusive of three statutory boards, to support their work and facilitate the delivery of specialised services for persons with disabilities in their care. Madame Speaker, in fiscal 2020, the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services touched the lives of more than 700,000 citizens of this country.

“The provision of these grants and services, which include senior citizens pension, public assistance, disability grants, food cards etcetera, cost the taxpayer approximately $5.13 billion,” Cox said.

She said the ministry also pays for the care of 91 elderly persons at 18 homes under the Community Care programme—a cost of $3,874,021.

A further $19 million was spent to provide training for the Geriatric Adolescent Partnership Programme for citizens between the ages of 17-35.

Cox said graduates of the programme were able to provide care for 988 elderly citizens.