Shadow Community and Cultural Development Minister Michael Weeks. *File photo
Shadow Community and Cultural Development Minister Michael Weeks. *File photo

Cutting the budget for social services and increasing the money given to police is not tackling social problems at their source, Shadow Community and Cultural Development Minister Michael Weeks told the Bermuda Sun.

Mr Weeks said that crucial services had lost around $1.5 million in funding, while the budget for police had gone up by nearly $2.4 million.

He added that six of the seven departments in the Ministry had lost funding — including child and family services, which went down by $524,000, and financial assistance, which had its budget cut by $369,000 in Finance Minister Bob Richards’ first Budget.

Mr Weeks said: “That represents drastic cuts in social services that directly impact the working class people of Bermuda.

“The irony is that the Finance Minister’s look ‘under the hood’ has resulted negatively on the people ‘in the hood’.”

He added: “These are the very departments that reach deep within our communities, helping our children and families and they have been slashed by a total of $1.5 million.”

Mr Weeks added: “These cuts will have a negative impact on the services that the community has become reliant upon.

“It appears quite obvious that this Government’s mindset is to sacrifice the positive influence on our young people, along with the sporting programmes and redeploy these funds to law enforcement.”

And he said: “Turning to financial assistance, it is common knowledge from news reports, the man on the street and even the talk shows, that the demands for Financial Assistance has increased exponentially over the years.

“However, once again the true colours of the OBA Government have been demonstrated by the willingness to cut necessary funding aimed at Bermudian people.”

Mr Weeks said that sporting programmes, foster care and youth counselling services had all suffered cuts in the inaugural OBA Budget.

He said Government had “pontificated” for years about programmes like the gang control initiative Operation Ceasefire, but that they “fail to realise that Youth and Sport reach down into our neighbourhoods and touch the lives of our young people as early intervention.”

The Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation has been cut by $391,000, while the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs has lost $123,000 compared to the last financial year.

The Ministry HQ’s budget has also been cut, down more than $100,000, and the Department of Human Affairs has lost a total of $75,000.

Mr Weeks added: “I am not saying that social services are the be all and end all, but if we want to reach our children, it makes sense to start in our community clubs, our social services and make Financial Assistance
available to those who need it.

“Government is supposed to be the place of last resort — and we know there are no jobs out there just now and that a lot of people aren’t working.”

And Mr Weeks said: “The children in residential care are there mostly because of court orders for various reasons — family breakdowns or whatever. To slash the funding in half almost sounds a death knell for residential care.”

The Shadow Minister was speaking after Community and Cultural Development Minister Wayne Scott used the full four hours allocated to a debate on the Ministry to deliver his plans for the year.

Mr Weeks said he had wanted to reply on the floor of the House of Assembly — but had been allowed no time to contribute, despite preparing a speech in advance.

He added: “While the sitting Minister Mr Scott had the right to utilize as much of that four hours as possible, and he used it all, it would have been nice to have had the opportunity to put forth a reply.”