Image courtesy Ministry of Social Development and Family Services.

With immediate effect, the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services has temporarily stopped the encashment of ALL cheques related to social welfare grants, at Groceries, Supermarkets and Retail Establishments, for the months of February and March 2022.

In an official statement, the Ministry explains that the measure comes following the recent break-in at the Sangre Grande Post Office on January 31, 2022, during which a total of 1,836 cheques were reported stolen, leaving several vulnerable families without their grants.  There also was an attempted break-in at the St James TTPost Office.

“Following the break-in at the TT Post Office in Sangre Grande, all Financial Institutions, Merchants and Supermarkets have since been put on the alert should these cheques be presented for payment,” the Ministry reported.

“Given that this unfortunate circumstance resulted in several households experiencing a delay in payments, the Ministry, in an effort to safeguard all its stakeholders, has taken the decision to place on hold all cheques being cashed at groceries and supermarkets for the months of February and March 2022. In this regard, the Ministry has since engaged its key stakeholders, advising of the situation,” the Ministry said.

Prior to the thefts, beneficiaries of senior citizens’ pension, disability assistance and public assistance grants were able to encash their cheques at any grocery or supermarket within their region; and merchants would present the cheques for payment subsequently.

The Social Development Ministry is encouraging all its clients to use the Direct Deposit service so that their payments can be deposited directly into their bank accounts, noting that Direct Deposit is a safe, reliable, proven, confidential method of receiving a payment.

“Several efforts continue to be made by the Ministry to make payments to social welfare clients through the Direct Deposit Banking System, known as the Automated Clearing House (ACH) System. At present, the Ministry is engaged in a drive to encourage clients to move to the ACH System. As at December 2021, only 48% of the 186,000 clients were on the ACH; (56%) being senior citizens,” the Ministry revealed.

The Ministry is encouraging the public to call its hotline number at 800-1MSD (800-1673) or visit a Social Welfare Office in their region for further information on this initiative.  The public also is advised to visit the Ministry’s website at www.social.gov.tt to download a form and apply today.