NASSAU, The Bahamas — The Government of The Bahamas celebrated the 50th anniversary of state-operated, ministerial welfare services with the launch of its first-ever, state-operated social services reloadable Pre-Paid Visa Card.
The card will be used to provide state assistance to Bahamians qualifying for food assistance under the Department of Social Services Food Assistance Programme. The launch was held November 20 at Epworth Hall, Shirley Street.
Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Perry Gladstone Christie attended the launch and presented the first Pre-Paid card.
“We are truly elated that this day has finally arrived and while we are beginning with a Pilot at one centre [Wulff Road], I wish to advise that we have already determined that the Fox Hill Centre will be the next to be brought online and that the groundwork for this has commenced,” Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie Sharon Griffin said.
“Over the years, the means by which the State has provided assistance has evolved and now, with the launch of the reloadable Pre-Paid Visa Card, we move to further modernize the system and join many other countries around the world in the use of electronics for the delivery of assistance.
“This is truly an historic event in the life of Social Services and indeed our country. This evening we can truly say that the reform process of our Social Safety Net Programme has begun,” Mrs. Griffin added.
Mrs. Griffin said the Government’s ultimate intent is for the card to be available to recipients throughout The Bahamas “in the shortest possible time.”
“This year commemorates the 50th anniversary of state-operated welfare services and the Department of Social Services has grown tremendously over the years.”
The advent of internal self-government in 1964 resulted in the establishment of Ministerial Government in The Bahamas for the first time, which led to the formation of a Ministry of Welfare and the nucleus of the Department of Social Services. The Hon. Eugene Dupuch was the first Minister with responsibility for welfare.
Mrs. Griffin said the earliest legislation to be found on the subject of welfare in The Bahamas was in the Rules of November, 1915, which gave the Relieving Officer of the then Bahamas General Hospital the authority to issue aid to the indigent persons who applied for it.
The Pilot will target clients at the Wulff Road Centre before being expanded to the Fox Hill Centre.
“I am sure that the beneficiaries at the Wulff Road centre will welcome this new system which will make their lives as well as the lives of the staff at the Centre much easier,” Mrs. Griffin said.
Beneficiaries of the Food Assistance Programme will be able to use the card at any food store where Visa Cards are accepted as part of the First Phase of the project.
Persons qualifying for the Food Assistance Programme include those enduring genuine economic hardships, low-income wage earners, senior citizens and persons with disabilities on a fixed income who do not have other means of support, and the unemployed.
“I implore all beneficiaries to keep their cards safe and use them properly. We are placing tremendous confidence in you as the first to receive these cards to set a standard for the others who will follow,” Minister Griffin added.