Govt removes domestic abuse victim from Public Assistance Programme 

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…was forced to flee home with children to escape abuser  

By Svetlana Marshall 

A 60-year-old woman, who fled her East Bank Essequibo (EBE) home, with her children to escape a physically abusive relationship approximately 12 years ago, is among persons who have been removed from the Public Assistance Programme in Linden, Region 10, though unemployed and financially unable to care for her 14-year-old daughter.

In an interview with Village Voice News, the woman, said of her six children, her youngest child was placed on the Public Assistance Programme several years ago due to her financial status. The woman said much to her surprise, she was informed earlier this year, that her daughter was no longer eligible for public assistance because she will be turning 15 in September.

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The single parent mother said since then life has been nothing but hard. “I’m 60, nobody nah wan me fuh wuk. Dey don’t wan old people fuh wuk,” she told this newspaper.

Another woman, 60-year-old Ezelyn Mitchell, said after suffering a stroke, she applied for public assistance in 2018 but was cut off in December, 2020.

“I was working but I got an attack of stroke, and so I was hospitalized for almost a year, and when I came out of the hospital, I was doing therapy. There are times when I am unable to walk,” she explained. Mitchell said she was encouraged to apply for public assistance due to her health, and her application was approved in 2018.

However, the woman said in December, 2020, she was removed from the programme and thereafter advised to reapply, however, her second application was not approved.

“I depend on friends, and family, but because of COVID, money is not circulating, and most persons are home,” she said.

Mitchell said though she is thankful for the little assistance provided by the kindhearted, she depended on the public assistance money to get by.

Earlier this month, Village Voice News reported that a 12-year-old girl from Wismar, Linden, whose biological parents abandoned her at birth, was among residents of Region 10, who have been removed from the Public Assistance Programme in the District.

The child’s guardian, an unemployed single parent mother, said the news of the child’s removal from the Public Assistance Programme came as a major shock and at a time when cost of living has skyrocketed.

Public Assistance is offered by the Government to people with permanent disabilities and those enduring economic challenges. The cases of people who fall within the latter category are reviewed every six months. The Boards of Guardians are mandated to evaluate and determine the legitimacy of the public assistance applications countrywide.

When contacted, Chair of the Region 10 Board of Guardians, Camille Ali told Village Voice News that public assistance is temporary and not permanent. “Public Assistance, it is for six months to two years, and it is an assistance but I think that they feel it is an inheritance or something [but] it is an assistance,” Ali told this newspaper.

According to her, public assistance is extended based on the merit of the case, however, there are persons who were on the programme for more than five years. Ali stressed too that due process must be followed for a person to become eligible.

“In our stipulation, we are not to give people who just walk in, and that’s what happened in Linden. A lot of people just walked in and said they can’t find their child-father, they can’t find the parent, and when we check, we have two and three persons getting for the same set of children,” Ali said.

Citing the case of the 12-year-old, Ali contended that the guardian had provided no legal documents for the child.

“Based on her record, she just walked in and said she couldn’t find the parent, that is what we have in the records, that is what the probation officer have there,” Ali claimed noting that the matter should have been reported to the police and the Childcare and Protection Agency.

But the child’s guardian in an earlier interview, had said that informed the Welfare Department, and the Guyana Police Force was called in as part of Standard Operating Procedures. After attempts to reach the mother of the child failed, the woman was allowed to keep the then infant.

The woman said years passed before she opted to sign up for public assistance but noted that she did so pre-2015 on the advice of the then Regional Education Officer and School’s Welfare Officer after the change in school location had proven to be a problem financially.

The woman said it was the school’s welfare officer, who had given her a letter to submit to Probation Officer, and when it was submitted, the single parent mother was then advised to get an Affidavit along with the child’s birth certificate and other documents, and she so complied.

The woman maintained that she followed the necessary procedure and kept the child out of love and not for financial gains.

However, Ali maintained that the Childcare and Protection Agency could have been involved. She reminded that each case is investigated by the probation officer, and approval by the board.

Ali said she was in no position to disclose how many persons were removed from the Public Assistance Programme in 2021, advising that the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security should be contacted. A response from the Ministry is still pending.



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