(CNS): The community affairs ministry has signed a deal with KPMG to develop an outline business case for a future social welfare programme, but it is unclear exactly what the bean counters will be creating. In a release Monday, ministry officials said Minister Osbourne Bodden had “discussed the government’s vision and guiding principles for developing an outline business case to ensure that social assistance programmes are strategically managed in order to improve efficiency, effectiveness and value for money”, but there were no details about where CIG currently stands on welfare policy.
While the release spoke about stakeholder consultations, deliverables and strategic implementation, it was not clear how the ministry will manage what has long been an ad hoc bundle of support services that falls well short of an established social safety net for those in need.
But last summer the ministry requested proposals from local consultants to prepare a business case, and while KPMG has been chosen, it’s not clear if the ministry has developed a strategic policy statement about how welfare should be allocated and delivered.
The increase in demands on the government’s social welfare programmes are well documented and the minister has said there is still a backlog at the Needs Assessment Unit, the arm of Children and Family Services which decides who gets what from government by means of social support. Despite the economic improvements, there has been an increase in inequality and need in the growing population, as thousands of families are being supported in some way by public money.
A report by the Office of the Auditor General in 2015, ‘Government programmes: Supporting those in Need’, reviewed the benefits, health insurance cover and tertiary care for seamen and veterans as well as the poor relief payment and medical care for indigents. It criticized the ad hoc and sometimes unfair nature of the current system, and found that government knows very little about who is really in need in Cayman or why as it has collected very little real data since 2009.
In response to the report, the ministry agreed to review the social welfare system.
Following the Project Future framework to investigate and respond to priorities using business case tools, the ministry said the outline business case must consider that report.
This week CNS reported that the ministry had reshuffled cash from a number social welfare line items or from veterans and seamen, which resulted in a reduced budget overall for community affairs, while government moved cash to other ministries. The minister criticised that story but the supplementary appropriations bill clearly shows the movement of cash.
The minister said the budget was reshuffled to increase funding to areas in welfare that were projected to be overspent by decreasing funding in welfare areas that were not being fully utilised or where demand had fallen. He claimed that charities were covering school lunches, and that with the introduction of Reception classes at government primary schools, the demand for pre-school assistance has decreased.
But just last month education officials were spelling out the many barriers to learning that some children from deprived backgrounds have, including the fact that some children come to school hungry.