Social Development Ministry: Public assistance for those in need

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Social Development and Family Services Donna Cox. – File photo

THE Public Assistance Grant is provided to meet the needs of those whose household income is deemed inadequate after a Standard Means Test (SMT).

The Social Development and Family Services Ministry, via a news release on May 13, sought to clarify information on the public assistance grant (PAG) in response to recent comments on the standardised qualifying criteria used to access various grants. The grant is a relief grant to a person in need because of his/her being prevented by some physical or mental disability from earning a living.

A statement from the ministry on May 13 said the grant is provided to meet the needs of people whose household income is deemed inadequate. As of May 2024, 15,902 people received PAGs, amounting to an expenditure of $24,341,395.64.

From October 2023 to the present, the ministry said it disbursed $198,566,729.92 under the PAGs.

The statement did not specify the comments that sparked the release. It is believed to have stemmed from media reports of a poor mother pleading for help to care for her three children in Claxton Bay.

The mother was reported as saying she went to the Social Welfare Division to ask for help but was told she needed proof of address. The family lives in a one-room plywood house without electricity or water and cannot provide any bill or documentation as proof. The woman said to be a victim of domestic violence, added that she cannot get child support either because she does not know the address or whereabouts of their father.

“To become eligible for this grant, individuals must undergo a Standard Means Test (SMT). The purpose of the SMT is to improve the efficiency of targeting mechanisms for accessing social safety net programmes/grants and to enhance the effectiveness of social service delivery,” the statement said.

“Contrary to misinformation, the SMT does not determine the qualifying income of the applicant but determines the poverty line of the household.”

The statement added that SMT calculates the household’s poverty line by assessing the household income and deducting two allowable expenses: housing (rent, land rent/lease, mortgage) and health expenses not covered by the Chronic Disease Assistance Programme (CDAP) or the Public Health Dispensary.

“Once an applicant’s net household income is equal to or less than the household poverty line, the household is deemed below the household poverty line and can be considered for programmes/services,” the statement said. The ministry said it is committed to ensuring that vulnerable people and those in need receive the assistance they require, leaving no one behind.