M.P. FOR ST. MICHAEL CENTRAL, MINISTER OF SOCIAL CARE, CONSTITUENCY EMPOWERMENT & COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
The Hon. Steven Blackett has spent the last five years building and strengthening relationships in his hometown of St. Michael Central. The man from Bush Hall and Bank Hall holds the reins of one of the DLP Administration’s key Ministries which will reshape Barbados into more than just a thriving economy but also a caring society of well adjusted and proud Barbadians.
He regularly walks the constituency to greet his peers and to meet new friends; and he is renowned for encouraging the young, engaging the elderly and reassuring the differently able. His flagship community programme is the “Helping Hands Breakfast Club”, which caters to 50 children, five days a week, and is growing. Students who sit the Common Entrance Examination are treated to annual fun days and educational tours, while all school-aged children who need assistance are helped with uniforms, school supplies and books.
Being mindful of the importance of sports in fostering healthy lifestyles, Steve has upgraded the basketball facilities, laid out road tennis courts, opened a new play park, and is seeking planning approval to build a stadium rink in Station Hill.
With respect to housing, the Parliamentary Representative has worked closely with the Urban Development Commission to build 25 new houses; and upgraded several homes with water closets.
The impact of the Minister was even greater on the national stage. In overseeing the Government’s Poverty Alleviation Programme he introduced the “Puente” model from Chile known as the “Bridge” or ISEE Project. This project is comprised of four areas of critical intervention:
- Identification/Assessment of vulnerable persons.
- Stabilisation – meeting the households’ immediate and urgent needs.
- Enablement – imparting the necessary skills to survive.
- Empowerment – helping participants to acquire the capacity to succeed and excel in society.
This project was launched in the first half of 2012 and started with 30 households across the island. With heavy inputs from Social Workers addressing critical issues such as self assessment, education, health, social relationships, housing, and employment, the results have been encouraging. It is generally agreed that it has the potential to strike at the core of poverty by motivating and equipping poor families with the tools to pull themselves out of the mire.
As Barbados becomes an ageing society much concern has been expressed about the country’s ability to meet the needs of senior citizens. The National Policy on Ageing, which comprehensively deals with all aspects of the phenomenon, has been approved by Cabinet and will soon be laid in Parliament.
Similarly, as Barbados becomes more and more enlightened, serious questions have been raised about lingering negative attitudes towards the differently able. Cabinet has recently agreed to have the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People ratified.
Additionally a White Paper on Disabilities, has been drawn up to guide the country’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It will address issues related to the right of equal access to buildings and leisure facilities, as well as independence, dignity, equity and justice.
The Minister, like most adult Barbadians, remembers the important role played by members of the extended family. At the local level, Steve acknowledges the contributions made by these community stalwarts and treats them to annual Mother’s Day lunches, picnics and large Christmas parties. Throughout the constituency the important roles of community leaders are recognized by renaming community centres and other community facilities after them.
However, at the national level Minister Blackett has risen manfully to the challenge of preserving the best of old Barbadian communities and taking the community spirit forward into the Better Barbados envisioned by the Father of Independence. Included in this package would be the well known core values, the impulse to care and protect the vulnerable, and the willingness to give something back to society.
The institution mandated to facilitate this process is the Constituency Council. The 30 Constituency Councils are catalysts for Good Governance and were designed to give local people a say in the development of their communities, to voice concerns, to assess needs, to act as channels of communication with political leaders and mechanisms for gaining access to scarce resources.
Within the short period of less than five years, the Constituency Councils have taken root. A week does not go by without news of an innovative intervention by one or more of these Councils. In many instances they are the first to respond to the needs of residents. They have been able to identify and solve community challenges ranging from drainage, sports, cultural practices, and enterprise, to poverty alleviation. They have found new ways of mobilizing and empowering communities.
The David Thompson Memorial Constituency Councils Football Tournament is one of the Ministry’s innovations to build character among young people, to unite communities and to stimulate local economies through sports. The tournament has unearthed talents in unexpected places and the Ministry will use this momentum to help people to help themselves.
Barbados needs more enlightened leadership like Steve’s if it is to achieve the vision of a Better Barbados fifty years after Independence.
Contact the Candidate
Constituency Office (246) 429-9507