Cyprus Mail

Large families in dire straits

CM photo archive: Food bank in Larnaca

By Angelos Anastasiou

FAMILIES are in danger of losing their homes and some can’t even afford their electricity bill, the Pancyprian Organisation of Large Families said yesterday.

In a news conference, the organisation’s head Paraskevas Samaras described the plight of one six-member family in Zakaki, Limassol, to exemplify the issues faced by many large families as a result of government policy on social welfare.

Samaras said that the family has had its social welfare benefits – as distinct from the large-family allowance – cut because the law mandates that any families in possession of immovable property do not qualify for state welfare. The family owns a 1/18 portion of a plot of land, and 1/3 of a house.

“Both parents are seriously ill, one has cancer and the other has multiple sclerosis”, Samaras said, adding that “they are so desperate that they are begging the state to take their four children so they – at least – can be saved.”

The organisation has sent a letter to Labour, Social Insurance and Welfare Minister Zeta Emilianidou, and has said it will wait a day or two for a response.

“We will not accept further social allowances to be cut or abolished”, Samaras said.

“We are ready for dynamic resistance against any attempt to cut them.”

According to Samaras, the consequences of the financial crisis have hit large families disproportionately to the rest of the populace, but they also have to face the state’s injustice with regard to medical care, student transportation and reductions to welfare benefits.

Late on Friday, Emilianidou told state TV that, in response to the organisation’s letter, she will be instructing the relevant departments to look into this matter and amend legislation so that welfare benefits are not withheld on legal technicalities, and that the Limassol social services department will be meeting with the family on Monday in order to help resolve the problems it faces.

Meanwhile, in a speech at the opening ceremony of the Cyprus Institute of Marketing’s new premises in Limassol last night, President Anastasiades commented on the impact the financial crisis has had on the people.

“I don’t want to overstate successes. Public finances may present clear signs of improvement, but the social consequences of the crisis are clear in the 17 per cent that is unemployed – in many occasions over six months. Besides, who could ignore the fact that it is inconceivable to speak of success when we still have food banks.”

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