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There are currently more than 3,000 people with food cards in this country that the Government has been unable to confirm actually exist, Minister of Social Development and Family Services Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn has said.
Crichlow-Cockburn made the statement as she addressed the People’s National Movement (PNM) meeting at the Upper Malabar Community Centre on Saturday night.
She said advertisements have been placed in the newspapers calling for more than 3,000 people, who they have been unable to contact, to come to the ministry to have the process of recertification undertaken.
So far, Crichlow-Cockburn said the Government has been able to remove 18,000 people from the food card programme who were not eligible to be a part of it.
She told of the personal experience of two police officers being upset with her and threatening to withhold their votes for having their names removed from the programme.
Crichlow-Cockburn said last week 1,376 people were removed from the programme because they had not utilised their food cards since Christmas last year.
“The food support is intended to be short-term assistance. So every six months we review the clients to determine if they have moved from the state where they were and can now stand on their own,” Crichlow-Cockburn said.
“This food support also targets individuals and families who are in need and who are in vulnerable situations and experience difficulty in meeting their nutritional needs and that inability is due to limited or no income,” she said.
“So I want you to understand very clearly, the food card or the food support was not intended for anybody who just wanted it,” Crichlow-Cockburn said.
She added that detractors were trying to paint the Government as uncaring for ensuring the food card system was properly coordinated.
“We have the (former United National Congress) UNC government who is trying to convince this country that we are uncaring but this is the same government that, during their tenure, would have implemented a biometric system to support the food card that cost this government $97 million, was never fully implemented, and supported only 3,158 persons out of a total of 42,000 persons. Do you consider that to be caring?” Crichlow-Cockburn asked.
“We had that government spending $2.7 million coming down to the end to pay $1.7 million to two per cent of the people who were in receipt of the food card,” she said.
Crichlow-Cockburn said due to the financial state of the country the Government had to ensure it was getting value for money from the food card programme.
“We decided to engage in a revalidation and recertification exercise of all who were in receipt of the food card.
“Approximately 13,000 people did not come. So when the UNC and the detractors say to you this government is wicked and it is uncaring they take back people food card, we have not taken back any food card,” she said.
“What we have done is sought to ensure that the persons who are in receipt of food support are persons are eligible for it and persons who are in need and cannot feed their families.
“We have dropped off from the system approximately 18,000 persons what this meant we have been able to save approximately $150 million annually,” Crichlow-Cockburn said.
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