Residents have been critical of the service given by the Social Services and Urban Development departments. The long waiting periods have been most bothersome, according to complaints that have reached The Freeport News.
However, Minister Frankie Campbell who was in Grand Bahama recently is asking for calm and patience.
He pointed out that "the two recent crises – Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19 – have suddenly exacerbated the numbers of clients being assisted by the Department of Social Services and Urban Development."
Campbell asked that residents to be patient with the ministry and those employed there, as many of them have and continue to face the very same challenges that those they serve are enduring.
“The Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development is the humanitarian arm of the government. Our focus is on those basic needs of the human being; food, emergency shelter and clothing. Our mandate would have always prioritized those issues, along with social development as an addition.
“With Dorian and now COVID-19 having exacerbated the numbers of clients we were accustomed to seeing and not gradually either, suddenly, there was a need for us to adjust to accommodate. I think that we have done a good job with the same resources we would have had in terms of human resources, considering that our human resources would have suffered from some of those same crises,” he explained.
Campbell noted also that a big adjustment made was the introduction of the digital platform.
He said that the new system is intended to decrease the number of persons who actually have to visit sites, keep an efficient record of applicants, and offer service to them in a timely fashion.
“Did we have some hiccups with that? Yes, we did because, again, it is those same humans who suffered from Dorian and COVID, who had to implement this. But, we are in an advanced stage. We are satisfied that the future is brighter.
“We are trying to ensure that even as we do this, we do not neglect the needs of our internal customers (employees) and so, we have to make sure that our staff members are comfortable and in a good working environment,” he added.
Campbell shared as well, that currently, ministry officials are attempting to relocate the local office from its present site, to a facility where the staff is more comfortable.
“We are trying to ensure that whatever the needs of our internal customers are, that they are being addressed so that they would be better able to be as productive as possible so that our external clients would be satisfied.
“We are open to partnerships, because we are aware that the government cannot do it alone. And so, we just ask persons to be patient with us and to grow with us, as we make the necessary adjustments to serve them better,” concluded the minister.
Back in June last year, Campbell traveled to Grand Bahama, visiting with employees to hear their concerns as well as to announce the roll out of the beta testing of the ministry’s electronic wallet.
During that visit (Friday, June 19, 2020) he noted: “We convened a meeting here this morning with the Parliamentary Caucus and the top team of Social Services here on Grand Bahama. The purpose was one, to introduce Ms. Charlamae Fernander as the head of Social Services here in Grand Bahama and two, to give the top team in Grand Bahama an opportunity to share some of their challenges, concerns and impediments that might be resulting in the frustrations that our external clients are facing.
“Also, we wish to have the Parliamentary Caucus hear those concerns and share some of their own concerns, and then finally, to see how we are able to marry all of the concerns to ensure that our internal customers are facilitated, accommodated and placed in a position where they are in an environment that will facilitate the kind of productivity that is necessary for the external customers.”
By doing so, he noted that hopefully it would result in their clients receiving the kind of service that they so rightly deserve with minimum frustration.
“We had candid sharing; candid dialogue. We now have a greater appreciation, on both sides. The Parliamentary Caucus was able to see the restrictions under which the office here is functioning, the lack of appropriate furniture; the lack of appropriate equipment, phone lines, copying machines which we will be doing away with in short order.
“In the final analysis, there is a great appreciation for what the team here at Social Services is doing, has been doing and continues to do. I believe that even frustrated members of the public would have a greater appreciation if they were aware of the internal constraints. And so, various commitments were made on both sides.
“I am satisfied that this meeting was a very productive meeting. I am satisfied that we are advancing rapidly, we are galloping towards what will be a very rewarding IT platform, for both our internal and external customers,” said Campbell.