Government’s interest in the care of the island’s elders is plainly demonstrated through its policy decisions and annual subventions to the Dominica Council on Ageing (DCOA).
Special Advisor to Dominica’s Prime Minister, Edward Lambert spoke on Honourable Skerrit’s behalf at the DCOA's Annual General Meeting held last week.
Lambert said in the wake of the global recession, Government’s response is to craft a Social Protection Policy that supports the poor and vulnerable, and buffers retirees from economic pressure.
According to Lambert, since the onset of the recession in 2008 the security of lifetime jobs and the delivery of free healthcare are no longer assured.
Also, a rise in migration has led to the abandonment of many elderly persons.
In that vein, Lambert highlighted Government’s initiatives to ameliorate these situations.
He said, “Government has thus increased welfare payments, removed taxes on pensions, introduced the Yes We Care Programme, agreed to more regular increases in benefits under the Social Security scheme, commensurate with the rate of inflation , [and] introduced the option for those reaching the retirement age of sixty to be reemployed up to age sixty-five.”
“This option,” he continued, “gives explicit expression to the theme for this Annual General Meeting. Government has also allowed for the provision of free cooking gas to all centenarians and improved the housing conditions for those elderly in dire need.”
The advisor also informed the nation’s senior citizens of Government’s endeavours to rectify the lack of Social Security benefits for returnees and retirees who have long lived and worked in the United Kingdom.
Efforts are also being made by the Labour Party Government to review and possibly pattern on similar arrangements of other Caribbean islands where this concern has already been satisfactorily addressed.
“This group of our citizens find themselves disadvantaged in that they are denied the benefit of increases in their pensions since they are no longer resident in the United Kingdom. This matter is being addressed by examining agreements of the United Kingdom with Barbados and Jamaica whose retirees are not denied these benefits. The next step would be to approach the Government of the United Kingdom on this,” said Lambert.
At the DCOA’s last executive meeting with Cabinet, the Prime Minister indicated his intentions to devise a programme through which self-employed persons such as fisher folk and farmers, who do not draw benefits from Social Security, can profit from some other form of economic reimbursement.
Lambert stated that Government wishes to move speedily with this plan to provide senior citizens with a social safety net.... permitting them to live fruitful lives without slipping into poverty.
In addressing the theme of the meeting, ‘Ageing: A fountain of National Human Resource Capacity’, Lambert encouraged the DCOA to document the knowledge and experience of its members and to make this information available to various organisations including Government.
“Government from time to time in trying to find members to serve on various boards and wanting to peruse a policy of getting a mix of experience and youth on those boards is often really looking far and searching deep to find out where are the experienced persons who can serve,” he commented.
He explained further, “I say this to you in order to encourage you to perhaps think of developing a database of the skills and knowledge of your members and make that data base available to various agencies including Government so that when specific skills and experiences are being sought in staffing boards and in providing advisory services you would be readily identifiable.”
This was the DCOA’s nineteenth anniversary meeting.