Last update: 12-Dec-2013 1:27 am
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Blind Welfare wants more $$ from Govt
Executive co-ordinator of the Blind Welfare Association Kenneth Suratt says all he wants is an opportunity to invest in the development of blind people in this country but this was being derailed by the inadequate funds being allocated to the association by the Government. The association received a budget allocation of $8 million for 2013 but that money was used up two months before the 2014 national budget was read in September.
This sparked a protest by workers in the association who were being paid late as a result of the association’s lack of funds. The association received a $1.3 million supplementary budget for the two months. For 2014, the association received $7.9 million, less than half of its $16 million budget request. “This organisation needs at least one million dollars per month to run effectively,” said Suratt in an interview at his office yesterday. “That money is simply not enough to develop the minds and way of life of blind people.”
Suratt, who is blind, said he was certain that before the next budget the association would run out of money to pay workers. The association’s budget covers the operations of its four branches, including this country’s only school for the blind in Santa Cruz and a branch in Tobago. In addition to money provided by the Government, the association has to raise $1.9 million on its own. The association only raised $300,000 this year from its handicraft workshop.
“We are not an income generating business...we offer a service free of charge,” Suratt said. “The only way to raise money would be to charge blind people. How would we charge poor, blind people? That is the Government’s responsibility. “The Government is purchasing a service from us which they can’t provide. They cannot teach blind people. We have the experience to do it.” Suratt said he was not getting the opportunity to invest in blind people.
“I am not getting the opportunity to train them in sports or computers, to train them so that they could earn more money,” he said. “If we can’t do that then all we are doing is eating, sleeping and getting up.” Suratt said there was no sort of development taking place. He said they could not even cover basic expenses. “This week T&TEC cut the lights in San Fernando,” he said. The association has a light bill of over $28,000 outstanding.
Suratt said this year the association would not be able to purchase low vision aides, canes and other devices for the blind. “They are giving the blind a false sense of hope,” he said. “What do I tell a child next year when I can’t provide the things they need. If you are talking about improving the lives of the disabled then we need the resources.” The association, which was the first association for the blind in the Caribbean, turns 100 this year, but Suratt says it will not be able celebrate the milestone.
“We might have to celebrate with (eating a) doubles under a tree somewhere,” he said.
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