Youth 'bawling' for their money

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Youth 'bawling' for their money

Scores virtually give up HOPE on Summer Employment Programme

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
Senior staff reporter
hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 08, 2019

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RICHARD Baker is a sad man.

Today Baker, a parent, is expressing great disappointment with the HOPE Youth Summer Work Programme due to what he describes as the lacklustre nature with which administrators of the programme have sought to remunerate participants, including his son.

“A lot of young people haven't got their money and it seems like nobody cares. It seems like no one is taking up the issue for the youngsters,” a disgruntled Baker told the Jamaica Observer.

Baker's 19-year-old son, Matthew, participated in the programme in June and to date he has not received a salary. When the Sunday Observer spoke to Baker's son he explained that when he did not receive a salary in July, his enquiries revealed there was an error with his banking information. His father explained that subsequent to this discovery, he accompanied his son to the relevant offices and rectified the issues.

“He was sent to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF)at NCB South Tower and worked there in June. He was supposed to get paid the end of the next month. When his time came they asked him to resubmit, saying there was some issue between the bank and them. We resubmitted the bank verification account and information and nothing. I personally went and spoke to someone at Collin's Green by National Youth service (NYS) — nothing. When I call over there I keep being transferred as to who would have control over the situation. I check with HEART Trust/NTA and HEART was saying everything was paid over to the Youth Services and there is nothing.

“I personally checked it out, went and questioned, and the information I am getting is that over 200 persons haven't gotten paid and the persons at the desk seem so frustrated with people coming and calling and asking about their salaries from the summer programme,” Baker said. “I even call radio programmes with the issue and they say people call over and over about it and this is from when. He is supposed to get paid from July and we're now at the end of the year and we hear nothing about it. I am wondering if this is a scam situation to how long this has been going on. I thought it was just a handful, but when I hear the figure — dat nuh right!”

While trying to ascertain information on the matter, a simple Google search of National Youth Service, Jamaica revealed 38 reviews and 102 questions directed to the institution, majority of which were enquiries into salaries owed.

Three months ago Romaine Harvey reviewed the entity, giving it two stars. He said: “I wouldn't recommended no one to take part in this programme if they need money for emergencies. But otherwise the work experience is great”. Someone named Jorih gave the service a one-star review six months ago with the comment “horrible experience, no pay”. Another two-star review one year ago by Evian Pollack said, “Last year a friend of mine had to wait, I believe, approximately three months before getting paid. Not sure if it's the same thing going on.”

Hanna Morrison also used the online forum to complain on behalf of her daughter Juellen Rowe.

“NYS didn't pay my daughter Juellen Rowe who did the programme in June 2019. Where is her pay? All she is getting is pure lies that you sent the money to a closed Scotiabank account and the bank is investigating it. It seems like something is wrong because my daughter still can't get her pay,” Morrison wrote a month ago.

“Good night, it's a month now since I have completed my July summer programme and I haven't receive my pay yet, why is that so?” a user by the name of Sash wrote in August.

Shamar-Kay Fable stated: “I did the National Youth Service HOPE summer programme in June and I haven't been paid as yet while other person who were placed at the same place as me have received their pays. So I'm wondering why haven't I been paid as yet?”

“Hello, I worked in the Hope programme in June and I have not received my stipend. I have called and visited the Spanish Town office and head office but nothing has been done. This is very unprofessional,” Shanice Samuels said.

Tresha Rose Clarke also questioned why the stipends were not paid and bemoaned the delay that has affected her son.

“Why aren't the stipends paid on time? You put people to work and nothing to cushion them. I have to be giving my son lunch and bus fare and he is doing all this work, this is so unfair,” she wrote.

“Why is it so hard for you guys to pay the interns?” Sashique Wilson asked.

Osayer White said, “I did my summer work from July, and up to this very moment I haven't received my pay. Every time I call the head office they're telling me all sort of nonsense. Over five week now...#Slackness.”

Sam Smith wrote: “Shemar Rainford start working from July 10 and finish the 27 of July. They told him he was suppose to get paid the next two weeks, that what they said to him and now is September.”

Those who commented on the online forum did not disclose whether they had received their salaries.

Further, Baker said the experience has hurt him because he encourages his children to work for their own, only for his son to have this experience.

“You're trying to encourage your son and kids to work hard for what they want and now he went out there, work and can't get his money. How many youths have someone to stand up for them? How many youths have someone to encourage them? The youths need to get their money. They work for it. How many of them take the bus? It costs me because I do my best to transport my kids. I carry him to work and pick him up most days so it costs me to encourage him that you need to work and at the end of the day you don't get your money up to this day? Every day I ask him if he checks his account. He even made a deposit to keep it (account) active and he said it's not in there, he hasn't been paid,” Baker said.

Dr Janet Dyer, managing director of HEART Trust/NTA, confirmed that there have been challenges in uploading payments to the banking system and said she currently has a list with 80 names of participants in the HOPE Youth Summer Work programme who have not been paid.

“Yes, we have been having some challenges in uploading the payment to the bank, but I know we have about 80 names on a list and we continue to work with the banks to get them uploaded,” Dr Dyer said.

Dr Dyer empathised with the participants of the programme, however, she also asked them to be a bit more understanding as the issue is not directly the fault of HEART Trust.

“The payments are going to several banks and when we upload from our system it tells us that it is submitted and approved, so we are of the opinion that the payment has gone through. It's only when these persons do not get the money and come back to us we do the investigations and realise that the payments were actually not done and we have to do the research and then go through it again.

“But knowing that we have the challenge we have sent messages out via social media and traditional media platforms to say persons who worked the summer programme and have not received their payments are to get in touch with us so we can sort it out for them. I will agree we have some challenges with our upload and it going to the bank but if these persons do not get the payment and do not come to us, we can't ascertain whether they were paid or not because when we go to the banking system it is telling us it's uploaded, it was submitted and it was approved. We will get the communiqué out on social media platforms and we continue to work with the banks to ensure that those persons who have not been paid, we will get their payments out to them as quickly as possible,” Dr Dyer explained.

Moreover, while Baker's son relished the experience he gained at JCF South Tower, the ordeal has left a bad taste in his mouth to the point where he would not recommend the programme to anyone.

“I was annoyed and I felt angry that after weeks and months, time has past...as the weeks turned into months I just gave up. One good thing of the experience is where I worked and the connections made. Working the three weeks I enjoyed that, but as you can see... look at what I am going through and I wouldn't want anyone to go through that,” he said, adding that he is still hopeful he will eventually get paid.

While the wait continues, the elder Baker says he will not relent until justice is served and if the issues remain unresolved, his next move will be to visit the Ministry of Labour and Social Security or the police.


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