FORGIVEN – BY ELVIN BAILEY

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Social Security was challenged to show some love to our senior citizens, especially our women.  We were challenged to do so in an article published in a newspaper of June 7, 2008.

The article stated that Social Security had not increased the welfare cheques to the ladies each time that civil servants received a salary increase.  It wondered why social security pensions have not kept pace with inflation rates and whether Social Security has swerved away from its original goals. The article summarised our reform discussions and then begged forgiveness if the summary was incorrect.

Well, Sir/Madam, all is forgiven because truly you misunderstood.

Social Security is not a welfare organization. But it recognizes that there are persons among us who, as the article stated, “having made their sterling contribution to the labour force, are left to eke out a pauper’s existence in their twilight years”.  We offer a monthly allowance of $210.00 to them, once they apply and satisfy the qualifying condition.  We show this kind of love to over 500 such persons.  We have shown greater love by increasing the amount from EC$7.00 per week at inception in 1978 to EC$210 per month in 2005.  Are we wrong to show such love?

When Social Security started in 1978, our goal was to provide benefits for maternity (to married women only: remember only lawful children were considered), for sickness, for funerals and old age pension.  You are right; we have departed from that, but in a positive way.  Let’s answer the question directly: “How much do we love you? Let us count the ways –  maternity allowance, maternity grant, sickness payment, employment injury payment, medical expense payment, constant care allowance, traveling expenses, burial grant, funeral grant, invalidity pension, orphans pension, invalid child pension, surviving children pension, surviving parent pension, surviving widow pension, surviving widower pension, surviving common-law wife pension, surviving common-law husband pension, assistance pension, invalidity assistance pension, elderly refund, disablement pension, disablement grant, death benefit – widow, death benefit – widower, death benefit – child, age grant and age pension.  And we are being asked to consider two more, namely education benefit and health insurance.  How many ways are those?

Consider too, the EC$8,018,495 already paid just in the first quarter of 2008!

Now it is our time to wonder. Your article was decorated with a picture of a nurse attending to the needs of a senior citizen. Could it be that the equipment was purchased through our approximately EC$4million donation that we make in annual installments of  EC$270,000 to the Ministries of Health since 1994?  Could the building have been one of the health centers that we helped to refurbish?  Could the nurse have had a refresher course sponsored by us?  Better yet, could she have been one of our high school scholars (a product of the Susanna Lee Scholarships)?  We know it wasn’t a picture taken at the Social Security assisted Intensive Care Unit of the JNF Hospital because hats are not allowed in there.

How about the rising cost of everything that you mentioned? We have not raised the 5% that you pay in over 30 years!  Yet your benefits have multiplied manifold times!  And what is it so wrong with trying to get more people to pay?  The more people who pay the less people will need to ‘eke’ in their old age.

We have had some testimonials about how well we care from many of these women. I publish two of them now and a poem appeared in an earlier article.  I refer you also to an article written by Ms. Jean Thomas, pensioner, that was published in March, 2008.  The point is we care in cash, we care in kind and we show it either way.

“I wish to express my personal thanks and those of my traveling companions with whom I communicated, to the staff of Social Security, and all those who were involved in making the island tour, lunch and entertainment such a memorable one.

There were those of us who started out from our homes with doubts, not knowing what to expect.  We might have even made plans for alternative moves to shorten the day, had things not turned out as we expected.

From the start, our doubts were alleviated when we noticed the caring attitude of the staff; to the physically disabled ones among us.  In our bus, Mr. Morton did a splendid job at being a tour guide, and our bus driver was very entertaining.

In spite of the fact that at lunch time, the staff would have been just as ready for lunch as any of us, one had to admire their hardworking and genuinely dedicated service to all.  They went out of their way to see that every need of the group was met, before they had their lunch – which no doubt they were too tired to enjoy.  This was highly commendable staff!  Lunch and snack were exceptionally good, service superb, and entertainment enjoyable and relaxing.  We were well taken care of on our way home by our bus drivers.

Congratulations, Social Security!  You went far beyond the call of duty, and our exceptional treatment will always be remembered.”

That’s one. Here’s the other:

“I enjoyed every moment of the Fun Day/Picnic.  The significance of the term “Social Security” came alive to me as never before.  We- the aged, the well, the not so well were in every way socially secured.  Our individual needs were met and we felt wonderful!

I was impressed by the organization, responsibility, equality and caring displayed.  Definitely the result of thoughtful planning!  The atmosphere of togetherness was ideal for meeting old friends and making new acquaintances.  From the bus tour to lunch, there were educational opportunities and much enjoyment.  I will always remember the experiences and accomplishments of the day.

Social Security staff: THANKS! CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE WONDERFUL!”

Notwithstanding the above, we will examine the charge of gender bias in the operations of Social Security operations in our next article.  Be on the lookout.  And thank you for the opportunity to serve.