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Modernization push for Poor Relief Operations

The Ministry of Local Government and Community Development has embarked on a drive to modernize the operational capacity and infrastructure of the Poor Relief Department across the country’s 13 municipal corporations.

Portfolio Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenzie, says the rebranding will improve brand identity and result in a greater appreciation for the poor relief services.

“We will also be rebranding our Infirmaries and modernizing them, to ensure high-quality service to the less fortunate, as part of a major overhaul of the current Poor Relief system. That whole process will be facilitated by the Human Services Bill 2018, which is now before Parliament,” he explains.

“Through the Human Services Bill, the infirmaries will be renamed as Adult Residential Care Facilities.”

The Poor Relief Department is the social welfare arm of the local Authorities that provides assistance to destitute persons. An infirmary is operated by each respective local authority except in the case of the Kingston and St. Andrew Municipal Corporation that runs the Vineyard Town Golden Age Home.

The infirmaries and golden age home cater to individuals who are destitute and in need of institutional care. There is also outdoor poor relief services specifically for persons living in their homes but are in need of financial support and other services such as medical comfort, assistance for school children and burial assistance.

“The professional capacity of poor relief officers is being improved through the Human Services Training Programme where 15 officers are now enrolled, as the second cohort of the programme and additional officers will also be brought into the system,” states Minister McKenzie.  “More patient care assistants are being employed to improve the quality of care.”

The modernization push will also see the Board of Supervision abolished as an agency, which functioned as the decision-making arm for poor relief services. It will be replaced with a Human Services Division that will operate within the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development.

“The Human Services Division will be responsible for strengthening the administration of social welfare and leading the implementation of this modern approach to poor relief across Jamaica,” adds Minister McKenzie.

The Poor Relief Departments are being retooled, and in some instances undergo renovations to its physical spaces of operation. The retooling exercise is being financed by a draw-down of $24 million from the Equalization Fund.

“This modern approach includes equipping the Poor Relief Departments with computers, printers and tablets, as we move to thoroughly digitize operational efficiency.”

To date, Minister McKenzie has handed over tablets to the Poor Relief Officers and Councillors at seven municipal corporations namely Clarendon, St. Mary, Westmoreland, St. James, Portland, St. Ann and Hanover.