Long road to welfare reform

| 29/02/2016 | 27 Comments
Cayman News Service

Dorine-Whittaker, Chief Officer of Ministry Community Affairs, Youth and Sports

(CNS): A catalogue of problems with government social assistance programmes are far from being addressed as the community affairs ministry is only at the start of a long road towards welfare reform and implementing a defined policy to deal with people in the Cayman Islands in need. Dorine Whittaker, the chief officer in the ministry, said staff are working towards welfare reform but the first step in the process, which is preparing a request for proposals for specialist consultants to write that business case, has only just begun.

In a damning report last year, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) pointed to a list of failings regarding the management of the $50 million that government gives to numerous different groups of people in need for various reasons.

The OAG found there was no overall strategy regarding the priorities or goals for the expenditure of these funds, which is around 10% of core government’s budget, and recommended the adoption of a social assistance policy to ensure the money is distributed fairly via identified criteria. Acting Auditor General Garnet Harrison, explaining the OAG findings to the Public Accounts Committee on Friday, said welfare programmes were operating without objectives and no performance measurement.

“There are no clear objectives of what government is trying to achieve, or in some cases, proper legislation that provides clear direction from the Legislative Assembly. As a result government cannot manage these programmes to achieve the desired outcomes or results, or provide effective accountability to the Legislative Assembly for this major portion of government expenditures,” he said.

But little appears to have changed since the report was published twelve months ago.

Whittaker told the committee that some changes were made to the criteria regarding seamen’s benefits but there was still “some work to do” to deal with other support programmes, such as school lunches, temporary rental payments, burial payments and long term or permanent assistance given to the sick and elderly. However, she revealed that, aside for tweaks to old policies from 2000, there was still no formally defined criteria.

PAC Chair Ezzard Miller said there had always been resistance from the political arm over this but stressed the need for established criteria to stop the political interference over who gets what.

Whittaker said that the workload was one of the problems and until the Needs Assessment Unit (NAU) could “come up for air”, it was not in a position to address the myriad issues, including the possibility of duplication of support or benefits.

PAC heard that staffing levels at the NAU had grown to 24 but with the large number of people seeking help, it was still facing a significant workload to deal with immediate needs rather than being in a position to assess the situation faced by the country’s most vulnerable people.

Despite the Minister Osbourne Bodden’s comments in the LA last year about the desperate need for more resources, both staff and cash, for the department, the chief officer said had so far been no increase in her budget. She said they were hopeful that during the current budget exercise, money would be moved around to fund the development of welfare reform.

Whittaker said the department needed to run programmes to get people off welfare and wanted to interface with the National Workforce Development Agency (NWDA) to help train people so they could work and become self-sufficient again. However, she said, if they are able to work, there had to be jobs for them. She said her ministry was not directly involved in government’s latest employment initiative, Ready2Work KY, but the NAU had been asked to refer their clients for the programme.

While the goal of full reform remains a distant one and the business case was not expected before the end of this year, she said it would include a policy on the elderly, which a new committee was working on, and she hoped that would be ready by October.

PAC member Winston Connolly noted that all MLAs wanted to help their people but it had to be done fairly and clearly with the goal of getting people back to work.

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Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (27)

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  1. Candace Ebanks says:

    I am absolutely disgusted with the “Needs Assessment Unit” – I tried to assisted a dear friend whom I have known almost all my life, a borne Caymanian, who under better times and conditions, applied to Cinico and was needs tested and could pay a small amount towards a premium for Cinico. At that time he was deemed “indigent” or the small income he made from his small business was still falling into the realm of poverty.

    Then, he had a heart attack in 2011 and his Cinico policy had lapsed because he could not make his payments. He had to be flown off Island and received at a cath lab in Jackson Memorial in Miami, 2 stints that saved his life. As with any major health event and its after care, including medication and monitoring as it is statistically proven ones chances of having another heart attack are higher.

    I helped him to go back to Social Services and in fact, we first went directly to Cinico to see if his policy could be reinstated, but of course, with a preexisting condition now and not being able to return to his business, Cinico’s premium that took almost 8 months to get a response, was over $900 per month. An impossibility for him and even myself, I could not commit to that type of payment as my own monthly expenses, mortgage, utilitites, car, insurance, etc. were barely being met on my end.

    A very kind woman at Cinico suggested that we go to Needs Assessment and see if he could be accepted as an indigent, just so that he could (a) obtain his medication and (b) have some form of monitoring by a physician. This is where the journey began! Information is collected and we were told for an emergency, applications could be processed as quickly as one week. Over eight months later after chasing and chasing a series of officers to check on the status of the application, on 2 occasions the paperwork was lost, the medication ran out and a social worker deemed it okay for him to wait until the following week to see if they could work something out to try to get his medication refilled. I think it was at that point that I realized, it is inevitable that someone will have to die before there is any attention placed on the value of a human life. Whilst I appreciate the constant understaffing, etc., a social worker is not a doctor and they have NO right to deny or not use their utmost skills to make sure something as simple as medication that some people are on for life or for very specific reasons, be passed up.

    We do what we can these days, and there are some doctors that are truly decent and have helped out. Needs assessment needs so much help themselves it’s not funny. One day, when another application is slagged off for 8-10 months and they can’t even be bothered to say, I haven’t forgotten you, there will continue to be tragedies that were completely avoidable if someone would start taking some responsibility and fight and keep pushing and pushing with the Ministry – when dealing with peoples lives, you just have to care and be willing to do whatever you can to cause people to be aware and take heed – this is a matter of life and death for people.

    My last suggestion that in my opinion, that no doubt has a heavy drain on our limited resources in this country, is at the point of entry, what does the health questionnaire look out for? Keeping well within our policy of importing poverty, we can also be importing disease and extended health care costs and commitments we just can’t afford. What are we still testing for? AIDS, tubercolsis – we might want to review that list because if I have a helper or a nanny that has diabetes and the basic insurance many of workers in the same position have, then it quite often does not cover all their medication. So, a work permit grant for someone who comes into the country and cannot prove to be financially responsible for their current disease, is going to end up in some way, shape or form, costing this country to maintain their health. Why are work permit grants issued to 70 year old security guards?

    I don’t mean to sound heartless, but we live in a small country with very limited resource and if we are turning away our own people because we have to take care of the poor and indigent from another country, it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. Charity begins at home. I wish I didn’t have to feel this way, but if people can’t hear, they will have to feel. I just hope its not your friend, mom, dad or family.

    A dear friend of mine became a social worker later in life in the US, had a directive that came down from the then Bush administration because the welfare system was out of control. In the state where she worked, the numbers of disability applications that were pouring through the system was not sustainable. So they started a programme to revisit every application to determine how disabled a person was. In some cases it was determine yes, someone was really and truly unable to work, for a physical or mental disability. However, for some people, they found they could contribute even 10 hours of work a week. The jobs were creative, some worked in a post office and could sort mail, some persons could greet people at a veteran’s centre, One lady could be a crossing guard at the schools, working for 2 hours a day. The point is, assess the real needs, find out what can be done, at least know where your money is going, live up to your name and responsibility.

  2. Anonymous says:

    $50,000,000 divided by the 6.2% of Caymanians that are unemployed = about $40,000.00 each. Per year. About the average wage across all sectors of Cayman (which is among the highest in the world).

    And that’s assuming that all unemployed Caymanians are in need of and receiving equal assistance which they are not.

    And that’s not counting all the other handouts and initiatives supposedly created to get funds to those in need like *cough* the Nation Building Fund, at $10,000,000 per year.

    There is no way that $50,000,000 is being distributed to those in need every year, even indirectly.

    So where did the money go?

    While we’re at it, where’d the NBF money go?
    Where’d the money from the duty waivers go?
    Who profited from the fiascos at CINICO, the airport, CIFA, the ERA, the Health Authority, the port tender and the Turtle Farm?
    Why don’t the MLA’s declare their interests like they’re supposed to? Why are there still no government accounts? Why are the AGs reports routinely swept under the rug?

    One thing is for sure, we will never find out through the CIG, ACC or RCIPS. The only way we will find out is if some patriotic whistleblowers decide this isn’t the sort of country they want to live in and leak the incriminating emails and documents. There are plenty of ways that can be done anonymously in the internet age. Let’s hope someone feels brave enough to drag all this into the daylight.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Why should it be when money can be spent to have driveways paved and fridges bought in the name of vote buying. It is not the Jamaicans that are fleecing the system but your own elected government. Neither party is about to change any time soon.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If NAU has a staff of 24 and they handle 10% of the Government’s budget – then its seems like we would only need 240 people to handle 100% of the budget!!!!!!!

    You can blame the foreigners if you want, but who the hell is hiring all the foreigners and taking out work permits for them.

    Most companies would rather hire cheap Filipino labour – they will work for little (please keep in mind that the minimum wage in Phillipines is about $0.61 per hour). The Filipino’s will live in cramped housing (DEH violations on occupancy), eat practically lone rice and yet they are still able to send back most of their money back home to support their families.

    NAU needs to put in place (for those who are able to work) a WORKFARE program. You want assistance from the Government then you should effing do something for it, not just reach out your hand and complain that you can’t get any effing work because of the foreigners.

    Caymanians, like to play the blame game, cry, cry and cry. Just call the politician who will put pressure on the appropriate Ministry and NAU and like magic they get assistance. But these are the same Caymanians who contribute very little to the community or society and feel that Government owes them.

    Does NAU sign contracts with those who they assist? Is there some sort of agreement made by NAU that guarantees assistance – like they will provide you with a food voucher every two weeks – guaranteed.

    I am an effing foreigner who came down here from Yankee land and have been effing busy working since my Yankee a– landed here – and every effing year that goes by all you can hear is Caymanians bitching and moaning – they are experts at doing this.

    So why the eff is Government paying RENT/ELECTRICITY/FOOD/ETC for able-bodied people? Why do these same people have money for ganja, liquor, nice clothes and can travel – if they are so effing poor that Government has got to feed them!!!! Oh now I get it – hell Government takes care of all their expenses, so when they get a little days work or go fishing they use that money for effing around.

    WELFARE REFORM – ship out the Filipino’s and offer the CAYMANIAN leaches (who are draining resources from Government) the same jobs. If the CAYMANIAN leaches refuse to work – then they don’t get any effing handouts – period.

    To the elderly and those in true need, yes Government that is where we need to help and that is why I look forward to volunteering to serve on any Government Committee that plans to assist this most vulnerable group in our community.

    • Anonymous says:

      5.55 Is that you Donald Trump? Go home and do us all a favour, build a wall so you can’t get out again!

  5. ANONYMOUS says:


  6. Anonymous says:

    civil service incompetence is never ending….
    read miller shaw or e&y reports….

  7. PPM Driftwood says:

    Whatever happen to accountability this is a catalog of failures and we all know who is to blame, yet they hiring consultants to tell us what they want to here. How can one hire family members and promote them without any type of recruitment exercise better yet how can those higher up allow it and going around preaching good governance when this is going right in front of them. Someone needs to read the anti corruption law to them or is that just for those not in government now.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ppm driftwood. If only the deputy would do one day’s work per week the CO Could get on with her job.

      How peope sleep at night knowing they waste the people’s money by doing no work all day is so sad.

  8. Preston Foster says:

    It’s just like all CIG projects. NO ACCOUNTABILITY!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Good luck Dorine. Hopefully with the right consultants and presumably God’s help you might be able to accomplish something soon. Obviously if you can’t we understand and it won’t be your fault. Likewise if you discover that some or even most of the $50m was “redistributed” based on connections rather than need please sweep that straight under the rug. Your country expects no less and certainly no more.

  10. Anonymous says:

    How can the public possibly quantify the amount of gladhanding as a percentage of CIG core budget when nobody seems to want to use their software to keep track? Under the circumstances, to limit this to just 10% is laughable! All of the department heads that refuse to keep auditable computerized records should have been fired 10 years ago.

    • D Holzham says:

      I can’t fire my pet who is going to back news for me. That means i have to find another pet to carry news and gossip for me that takes too long. Hire consultants to prop up my pet and let them reign untill i am good and ready to retire.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Why are we having to recruit and pay consultants to write a business case when CIG can refer to the comments on this article or to the report of the OAG to start the process? In typical fashion, we excuse our way out of rolling up our sleeves and delving into the problems by waiting for RFP’s, wasting more money on reports that will never be implemented. As Lady Benz said, we know what is going on but do not want to blow the cover on those who have created or have participated in the mess. That is why we have to hire consultants – to report what we will pay them to say. SMDH.

  12. Uncivil Servant says:

    It’s also a long way to Tipperary and if the same people continue to lead the way we will never arrive.

  13. Lady Benz says:

    Who was warned about Sue Nicholson’s behavior and did absolutely nothing? Some people have past their retirement age but are holding the Line on the cover which hides those at the very top.

  14. AS blayloc says:

    They Cay’s foundation and dearly beloved needs to explain what happen to Risco Batten and why he swimming in one of he worst area for current on this island. Also why they are hiring individuals who were caught redhand stealing stores from the Francis Bodden Girls home???

  15. Anonymous says:

    Can anyone confirm accurately what percentage of the 50 million is being spent supporting foreign nationals whose presence here requires them to maintain themselves?

    • Anonymous says:

      1.07, one would think that if there is a requirement to support themselves that they would not qualify for aid. However this is Cayman. Much more interesting would be how many “vote buying programmes” such as the Christmas clean up this has supported, which is unsustainable and a complete waste of money- no long term goals in that. It is very convenient to have murky structures dispensing these funds-no oversight means abuse and corruption in most places. Very convenient for politicians.

      • Anonymous says:

        You would think – but then thinking is inconvenient and stops you from wasting the publics money – so it is avoided at all costs. Literally.

    • Anonymous says:

      Forget those ones. What about ppl receiving support and not living in the Cayman Islands?

      What about the individuals receiving support and working and have not notified that they are working or received a pay increase?

      What of the ones receiving support, when they should be receiving from the deadbeat fathers?

    • Anonymous says:

      Everyday Caymankind racism. Apparently the Cayman edition of the Bible did not have the parable of the Good Samaritan in it. A Christian country my . . . .

      • Anonymous says:

        Since when did questioning possible illegal payments to persons with no entitlement to them while others do not have the support they are entitled to, become racist?

        • Anonymous says:

          @2;56 yup they’re calling it racist because the majority getting support are Jamaicans and they know that and that’s the same idiotic guilt trip used on this department from head to bottom, on the politicians and any Caymanian who can be easily scared. Nothing about race my dear Jamaicans and remember we all have similar ‘race’ but guess you meant positive discrimination FOR Jamaican nationals? Now that is something Caymanians can hold the FCO and MLAs accountable for, unfair discrimination against the British and Caymanians in favor of the Jamaicans

        • Anonymous says:

          The minute foreigners were mentioned. Can you not read?

    • Anonymous says:

      A check should also be made into foreign nationals who are in government and the quantity of “relatives” they have adopted to allow them to visit and remain in the Cayman Islands. This should be treated as an abuse of office.

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