Debt court criticised as ‘humiliating’
Bermuda is unprepared to deal with recent levels of unemployment, the head of a family charity has claimed.
Martha Dismont, executive director of community charity Family Centre said there was “very little recourse” for those who have been made redundant.
“They can either rely on savings — which are spent quickly in this high-cost economy — seek support from family members or friends, or apply for Financial Assistance, which itself is struggling to support the needs of the able-bodied unemployed,” she said.
Ms Dismont criticised the use of debt court to openly heap shame upon those who have fallen on hard times.
“It has to be extremely humiliating to be on public display for not being able to pay your bills,” she said.
“Our concern is for the lack of dignity that individuals are beginning to feel, as a result of what they have to do to survive in this difficult economy.
“Many families are still just barely hanging on for survival. For some, their dignity is all that they have left to keep them motivated to work through their challenges.”
Ms Dismont spoke of the mounting frustration for those struggling to make ends meet — with increases in domestic violence, substance abuse and the neglect of children, and a desperate few resorting to theft and robbery.
And this already precarious situation can become a full-blown nightmare should someone without health insurance become ill — forcing them to choose between avoiding treatment and paying off a potentially expensive medical bill. Ms Dismont proposed a range of solutions to battle these systemic problems.
Her fixes included additional investment in job skills training and requesting tradespeople to mentor and train young Bermudians, with possible Government subsidies to assist.
She also called for a conversation on a “living wage” for Bermuda (“it will determine how much we value human dignity for all citizens”) and a comprehensive review of the island's continued high cost of living.
And Ms Dismont appealed to the wider community to display “less judgment and harsh criticism, and greater empathy”.
“We need people to feel a sense of hope and not judgment. If we give individuals the supportive tools, they will find a way to lift themselves up,” she said.
“The most important message is that human dignity must be preserved to ensure that people retain hope. A hopeless society becomes a very, very dangerous place.”