These represent the first set of single parents to benefit from the Single Parent Fund that was announced last year by President Bharrat Jagdeo.
Minister of Human Services and Social Security Priya Manickchand told Stabroek News that the parents, who were selected from a database of some 30,000 single parents who registered last year to benefit from the fund, will begin to receive the assistance on April 6.
The government has set aside $8 million for this initiative while another $50 million has been set aside to assist single parents by training and equipping them with a skill and to assist them in starting small businesses.
The $58 million is only just over half of the $100 million fund President Jagdeo had announced last year, when he touted the creation of the programme to assist single parent households, particularly those headed by females.
On April 23 last year, the Human Services Ministry commenced the registration process to create a database for the programme and at the end some 30,000 single parents were registered but no assistance was given last year. The government had said that the fund was to support vulnerable single parents in the light of rising food prices and the increasing pressures this group faced.
According to Manickchand, for the single parents to benefit from the fund they must be on the database and this, the minister said is a good process as she wanted to avoid any accusation “that there was a subjective determination as to who must benefit.”
To receive the $1,000 the single parent must be earning an income of under $30,000 a month, maintaining at least two children and have day care as an expense.
“We are giving them $1,000 a month to assist with day care. Now the average day care is $4,000 [a month] so we are giving them a 25 per cent assistance and that is to help parents who are already working to stay working [and] continue to contribute to Guyana’s development,” the minister said. According to the minister the assistance is also to ensure that the work of the parent does not take away from the child’s development.
The parents would each be given a cheque for $9,000 which would represent all the months for the remainder of the year and according to the minister a determination would be made as to whether the assistance would continue next year.
Told that some persons might criticize the amount of the assistance given, the minister said: “While it sounds like a small amount it is 25 per cent of what you have to pay. We had made it very clear from the get go — from the registration process — when we announced that we are going to start this that we cannot meet all of the needs of all of the single parents at any one go, so we are going to have to determine… Remember this is what parents said they wanted, some parents said they wanted this.” The minister pointed out that $1,000 a month was better than no assistance.
“It is 25 per cent of what you have to pay. I mean if you were paying $20,000 and we were give you $1,000 then that would be a little ridiculous,” the minister stressed.
The minister noted that some international agencies had written reports on Guyana and one of the recommendations was that the government should support persons who are working by taking care of their children while they are at work.
Meanwhile, the minister said Minister of Labour Manzoor Nadir and the Board of Industrial Training would soon commence training at a cost of $25 million for single parents who are in need of such training while another $25 million has been set aside to assist the parents in starting small businesses.
“So you might be trained to sew and we will buy you a sewing machine… Minister Nadir is working on that and that would start shortly,” the minister said.
And the assistance will be given to anyone who has primary care for a child or children.
The distribution process for the day-care assistance will commence at 10 am on April 6 in Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam) in the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) Boardroom; April 8 in Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne) in the RDC boardroom at 10 am and on April 9 at 11 am in Region Ten (Upper Demerara/Upper Berbice) at a venue yet to be decided. The next distribution would be on April 11 in Region Three (Essequibo Islands/ West Demerara) at 2 pm in the Education Resource Centre at Vreed-en-Hoop. On that same day distributions would also be made in the RDC boardroom in Region Five (Mahaica/Berbice). The distribution day for Region Four (Demerara/Mahaica) has not yet been fixed.
Last year, the Govern-ment Information Agency (GINA) had quoted Manickchand as saying that the government recognised the constraints faced by vulnerable groups owing to increasing food prices, which is a global phenomenon and sought to intervene to help single parents.
“It is found that children are not attending school or are limited to accessing quality education provided because their parents are unable to provide for them,” she had said at the time, adding that it was hoped that with this intervention, single parents would be in a better position to provide for their children.
Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, Manickchand said her ministry was in possession of raw data which was being entered into a special database that has been created.
She had pointed out that the single parent registration programme was one of the ministry’s visions and was included in last year’s PPP/C manifesto.
Last year the PNCR had called on the government to implement the fund as a matter of urgency as the social and economic circumstances of most families in Guyana, especially single parent families, were dire.
The PNCR had indicated then that it supported such a fund, in principle, but issued the caveat that it should be fairly and equitably administered, and also made recommendations for the improvement of the fund. It said it had done so in the expectation that given the trying economic circumstances facing single parents, the government would have taken the necessary measures to have the fund implemented as a matter of urgency.
The party had felt that the government was “fiddling while single parents are being hammered by the rising cost of living”.