No applications for senior citizens, public assistance or disability grants have been reviewed for payment by the THA Department of Social Services since January 17 2012, Secretary of Health and Social Services Assemblyman Claudia Groome-Duke has said.
She said in an interview on Wednesday that no Tobago Local Public Assistance Board has been in place since then to review the applications. She said according to the records of the department up to June 30 2012 there were over 112 applications to be reviewed by the board, among them are 62 for the senior citizens grant, 28 for the public assistance grant and 20 for the disability grant.
As a result, she said, she was surprised to hear the Minister of the People and Social Development Glenn Ramadharsingh speaking of 174 new applicants for the year receiving public assistance in Tobago. “If this is so we want to know when the applications were reviewed and payment approved and by whom because the chairman of the Board should be the THA Director of Social Services and that person did not chair any meeting to approve applications for payment,” Groome-Duke added.
She said until such time that a Board was in place the Tobago clientele would be at a serious disadvantage.
Groome-Duke said in reviewing the State boards it was hoped that the Prime Minister would take into consideration the Tobago situation in relation to the Local Public Assistance Board whose members have been appointed in the past 30 years on the recommendation of the THA. She explained that board members were appointed according to geographical areas so that they would have a knowledge of the applicant.
Approval of applications for the benefits to the aged came to a standstill in January after it was discovered that the Minister had rejected the THA’s nominations to the board and instead made his own recommendations to the Cabinet.
However, she said, members of staff of the THA Social Services Department have not been providing information and or files on applicants to anyone since January 17 2012 and therefore those applications have been on hold in the department.
Groome-Duke said she was also surprised to learn of plans by Minister Ramadharsingh to establish an office of his ministry in Tobago and asked what would be the purpose of this office since his portfolio was covered by the THA Act.