More jobs needed to stem welfare dependency – guidance counsellor
The guidance counsellor at St Mary Technical High in Richmond, St Mary, Georgia Gilmore-Hemmings, says that many of the parents she comes into contact with rely solely on the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) to send their children to school.
As a result, Gilmore-Hemmings fears that unless more jobs and wealth-creation opportunities are created in the parish, welfare dependency could increase drastically in the long term.
She told Family and Religion last week: "I think that poverty is the biggest issue facing families in St Mary right now. Because the parents are poor, for the most part, they are not sending the children to school regularly, and when they do come, there is a strong dependency on the PATH for lunch.
"If it's a case where there is no PATH lunch kiosk, a number of students wouldn't be eating at all for that day. At my school, more than 80 per cent of students are on the PATH and therefore, you will find that because poverty is so widespread, in this parish especially, it affects the students' learning.
"So they are not eating properly and depend on the school for every single thing: lunch, bus fare, and all the basic needs their parents should be providing. I really think this is a critical area that needs to be addressed."
Gilmore-Hemmings believes that if the situation remains unchecked, the lasting implications for children, families, and wider society could be catastrophic. She explained: "We need more jobs, and we need to change the culture of government; just handing out welfare like that isn't good because now there is too much dependence on it.
"Many of the parents think they don't need to work because the government will take care of their child and therefore everything must come free. They say things like: 'Go to teacher for lunch if you don't have it' (laughs).
"The problem is that it affects the family structure in a way where the students, along with the parents, grow up with this notion that somebody is always going to take care of matters. There is a belief that 'I don't have to be responsible because somebody out there will take care of whatever I have a need for'.
"The child then develops the same mentality as the parents: 'I must get everything I want without working for it because it must come free.' So there is no drive to say 'Alright, I've achieved this because of what I have done.' The mentality is: 'I am entitled to it, and if I don't get it you are denying me because it's something I should get without working for'."