A 2014 Country Assessment of Living Conditions (CALC) Study has shown rising levels of poverty in Barbados with an approximately six per cent increase in the number of households living below the poverty line and an increase of about five per cent in the individual poverty rate.
This observation by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development Ernesta Drakes, who pointed out that the poverty level was at 15 per cent and the individual poverty rate had reached 19.3 per cent.
A study on Poverty and Income Distribution carried out between 1996 and 1997 revealed that the island had 7,000 households below the poverty line, numbering about 35,000 people or 13.9 per cent of the population.
Drakes said had that Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) study given full consideration at the time “we would by now have a more in-depth appreciation of the extent to which poverty has been experienced in the Barbadian society”.
“The poverty line has moved from $5,503.00 to $7,860.65; household poverty rate from 8.7 per cent to 15 per cent and the individual poverty rate from 13.9 per cent 19.3 per cent. However, the data also show that overcrowding in poor households declined from 17.0 per cent to 11.0 per cent and the unemployment rate in poor households dropped from 30.8 per cent to 25.9 per cent.
“Overall the results of the CALC survey have been disappointing but they do provide us with an up-to-date body of information that we can use to plan our intervention programmes,” said Drakes in remarks on behalf of Minister Steve Blackett at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2015 local Social Good Summit at the United Nations House this morning.
She explained that the Poverty and Income Distribution survey presented an opportunity to make decisions about poverty in Barbados, and as a result a poverty profile, based on income, was developed from the survey. However, she said there was room for “considerable improvements”.
As such, Drakes said the ISEE Bridge Project was one of the solutions to address the vexing issue of increasing poverty.
The ISEE Bridge which was based on the Chile Puente (Bridge) model, is an interactive programme which focuses on targeted intervention at the household level addressing the needs of each household and seeking to transform their lives with four areas of critical intervention.
Those areas are the identification and assessment of the poor and vulnerable; stabilization, enablement and empowerment.
“While the Bridge was the gateway to social inclusion and integration of household members into the community and wider society, it was the conduit for individuals to take up opportunities that are being offered for a 24-month period and also provides them with essentials along with psycho-social support to improve their quality and standard of living,” said Drakes.
She said when the pilot programme came to an end, there were still some aspects of the programme that “did not work as speedily and proficiently as expected”.
However, Drakes pointed out that the Ministry of Social Care had been approved for an IDB loan on September 21 this year to implement a Strengthening Human and Social Development in Barbados Project in 2016.
“What we are proposing in 2016 was further strengthened by the results obtained from a 2014 Country Assessment of Living Conditions (CALC) Study. The approach taken in the CALC Study differed somewhat from the IDB Study and compared a number of selected variables which showed increasing evidence of poverty,” reported Drakes.
The main objective of the 2016 Project, she said, is to support the strengthening and rationalization of Barbados’s Social Safety Net and Active Labour Market Policies which fall under the purview of the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development and the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development.
The programme will consist of three components – strengthening of the Social Safety Net, strengthening of the Active Labour Market Policies and monitoring and evaluation/management the information system.
She said the components would be structured to expand and better target the ISEE Bridge Programme, expand the provision of employment and training services for the poor and vulnerable, and create and efficient Management Information System connecting the programme executed by the two ministries as well as related agencies.