The helping hand of Saba’s Social Work unit

The Social Work unit, which is part of the Community Development Department of the Public Entity, lends a helping hand in different areas of the social domain. There is financial assistance and practical assistance, but also emotional support and motivational empowerment.

“Many people think that Social Work is only about financial support, but there is much more that we offer,” said Senior Policy Advisor and Social Worker Lucrecia Paulina. She and her colleague, Social Worker Gideon Wilson are there to assist.

Lucrecia Paulina (right) and Gideon Wilson (left) of the Social Work unit.

The most well-known form of help is financial assistance. Sometimes people need help with the payment of a rent backlog. Or the paying of upcoming rent for people who urgently have to move because the house is no longer safe, because of a toxic environment at home, or due to a dispute with the landlord. Or because they have built up a backlog in paying the electricity bill.

But prevention is always better, and that is what Social Work promotes. “Our goal is preventing people from finding themselves in a problematic situation. Rather than paying backlogs, we want to help people avoid a dire situation. We want to teach people skills to financially empower them, instead of just paying the bills and solving the problem ad-hoc,” said Paulina.

Together with the client, Social Work draws up a plan. In that plan, it is stated what Social Work expects of a client and what the client has tried so far to address the issue. “We want people to understand that it is important to come to us before the situation gets too bad, not to come when it is too late and they already have a large backlog.”

Types of Assistance

People can receive assistance to pay their rent, and utility bill, receive a water load, apply for new school uniforms and school supplies, to help to buy groceries or to make home repairs that require urgent attention due to, for example, an unsafe situation in the house. House cleaning is possible for persons with a disability and for senior citizens. Hurricane preparedness kits are handed out to people who need help to be ready for the hurricane season.

The energy subsidy is still available for people with a lower income to help alleviate the burden of higher electricity bills. It concerns a previous one-time US $850 energy subsidy per household and now an additional one-time US $1,300 per household. Application forms are available at Social Work and at the Saba Electric Company (SEC). There are income criteria as required by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (SZW), to qualify for this subsidy.

Emotional support

Social Work offers emotional support to help people create more space so they can have more mental space. We provide a listening ear and try to help where we can,” said Paulina. Emotional support often requires help and understanding from the community and stakeholders. Many times, it involves social participation. “It is about investing in people so they can again participate in society, help them to take charge of their own life, to make positive changes.”

Practical support is offered by Social Work when a person, for example, needs help to fill in forms, request a pro-bono lawyer, and to get practical advice on how to keep a household with the other members of the family. Social Work organizes budgeting courses and facilitates training on how to see the signs of domestic abuse, how to deal with aggression or to teach social skills. “Some things we cannot solve for people, but we can give advice, for example, on how to go about getting a job or a house. It is important however to understand that Social Work can only advise and that the final decision lies with the relevant stakeholders,” said Paulina.

Saba Works 

The Saba Works program is for people who are struggling to find a job, and people who have been looking but are having a hard time succeeding in this for various reasons. “We try to find a job that fits. We look at the work circumstances and we try to match them with the person,” said Paulina. Applicants learn about various aspects of having a job, such as work ethics. Saba Works exists since 2019 and it is the work program of the Community Development Department.

Since every situation is different, Social Work provides case-based assistance. “It is tailor-made. It is really about your situation.” Social Work will make an assessment of the situation, to know if the person qualifies and to learn about the situation that the person is in. This assessment is necessary because Social Work has to justify the assistance that is provided. Sometimes, documents need to be verified to make sure that a person qualifies for assistance.

People are kindly asked to make an appointment. This will help to make the assistance more effective and tailor-made to the needs of the client. “We have a conversation, possibly do a house visit. We want to understand your situation so we can better help.”

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