Report on social welfare reform waiting Cabinet nod

| 16/08/2017 | 20 Comments

(CNS): An outline business case (OBC) completed by KPMG on the reform of social welfare in the Cayman Islands has been completed and is awaiting Cabinet approval before it will be released to the public. Speaking to the Public Accounts Committee, Wednesday, the chief officer in the community affairs ministry spoke about the work that is being done to address the catalog of challenges surrounding the public cash handed out to those in need. Dorine Whittaker said that the OBC has set out a strategy for delivering social assistance programmes and monitoring results, which will all be in place by the end of 2019.

Premier Alden McLaughlin has committed to a shake-up of the country’s welfare programmes and projects. At a recent police and community meeting in Scranton he spoke about the failure of so many social projects and programmes that needs to be addressed. Whittaker admitted that there were a number of challenges regarding the information being held and the way welfare was being managed as well as the failure of various departments and agencies to communicate with each other. She also stated that the ministry had no social welfare expertise which was one of the reasons why they had contracted consultants to draft the OBC.

Whittaker was called before the PAC following the auditor general’s recent review of a damning report her office published more than two years ago, which found no progress had been made at all on the recommendations. Government Programmes Supporting Those in Need was published by the former auditor general, Alastair Swarbrik, and he found that the arbitrary nature of the current system was presenting serious dangers of inequity when it came to welfare distribution.

Whittaker told the PAC, however, that things were happening even ahead of the OBC being finalised. She said the structure of the Needs Assessment Unit (NAU) has recently been changed to include social workers, so that the assessors are no longer just looking at the financial challenges faced by the clients but all of their related issues. She explained that the majority of people they are dealing with on long-term assistance are either elderly, disabled or mentally ill. Given the issues, the unit could not be staffed purely with financial experts as had been the original plan and a decision was made to include social workers, which she said was beginning to make a difference.

Whittaker said one of the goals the department was working on was to reduce the amount of “doors clients have to go through” to deal with their issues so they can access what they need through one door. The chief officer also stated that criteria were now in place regarding how welfare decisions were made and that case workers were being assigned to clients coming in for financial help so all of their needs could be properly assessed and integrated with other agencies, such as CINICO or education.

She also said work had been done on checking seamen and veterans to ensure that all those receiving benefits were entitled to them and were living here. She said only around a dozen people on each list had not responded and had not been tracked down. She said they had been removed from the lists until they contact the department.

During a long exchange with the members of the committee, Whittaker was grilled on past, present and future challenges and it became clear than even after the OBC is approved and made public, her agency still will face a lot of work to streamline what many believe is a chaotic environment.

Chris Saunders, a new member of the committee making his debut appearance at a PAC meeting, said the NAU was by far the most complained-about government agency by his constituents and that even during the meeting he was receiving messages from people who needed help to deal with the unit. He was also reluctant to engage in the Q and A with Whittaker without seeing the OBC.

He said that providing those in need was a primary function of any government and it was the one thing that government should get right. He queried what had been “going on for the past umpteen years”. The new member asked, “… when did supporting people in need become so complicated…?”? He also said he believed it was “scary” that government had to get consultants to tell it how to look after its own people and questioned why the OBC was still under wraps, adding, “the public’s business cannot be done in private… what we need right now is action”.

Ezzard Miller, the PAC chair, confirmed that he will be convening another meeting in three weeks to discuss the OBC once it has been released. He agreed that the committee needed to see the findings and expressed his disappointment that the Cabinet did not appear to trust PAC enough to see the report ahead of the meeting.

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Category: Government oversight, Local News

Comments (20)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Maybe this suggestion is not applicable here please increase pensioners monthly $200/$400 to at least $800 . We are suffering how do you really expect people to survive!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous at 5:42 a.m. You are so correct. Needs to be fixed at the ministry level . A proper mess. Also too many poor people were given status in the mass give away. No vetting was done and every tom dick and harry was running up to the Glass house with with their liist. We will never get over that. Thankfully that will not happen in the PR fiasco l

  3. Anonymous says:

    yeah yeah.! tha like tje other reports that have come y gone before…snort phewww snork pheww????

  4. Anonymous says:

    MLA’s, if you want to really help your constituents then work with them to NOT need government assistance. Explain how to improve their employment situation and see that they follow through. Explain about needs versus wants and not spending money on silly things. Explain that children are their responsibility and cost money to raise. Etc.
    Only looking to provide public assistance is just leading them down into a deeper well from which there is no likely return.

  5. Anonymous says:


  6. Anonymous says:

    Before we start castigating Cabinet, perhaps we need to ask the Cabinet Secretary/Office if the Report is with Cabinet for consideration, and if so, when it was submitted to Cabinet.

  7. Anonymous says:

    As a former NAU employee I agree with Mr. Swarbrik on the arbitrary nature . . . when it came to welfare distribution. And Mr. Saunders you are on the right path regarding your queries for what had been “going on for the past umpteen years”.

    One of the biggest problems with managing social welfare is LEADERSHIP. XXXX New leadership would be a good place to start my friend PAC Chairman.

    And let us not forget the Minister in Charge who routinely provides directives to assist certain persons. Rules and guidelines are provided to Needs Assessment Officers and these are frequently circumvented by the Minister – who runs ragged over these same rules to provide assistance to a constituent or a fellow cabinet members constituent.

    You have some very fine workers at NAU, but again it is all about Leadership – when something is broken – you got to blame those at the top – and give some others the opportunity to implement change.

    Okay trolls, naysayers tell me I am wrong.

    Sign Me,

    New leadership needed at Ministry and NAU.

    • Anonymous says:

      This assessment should include people receiving funds who have relatives with money! Same goes for hospital benefits.

    • Concerned says:

      I agree with new Ministry leadership as I have been to the NAU and they all work very hard and the Management at the NAU also work very had. I have personally been called by the Director on my case and she provided me with advice as well as services. Unfortunately, I called her from the government switchboard as I could not get through on their mainline but I know they are understaffed. Can’t understand why the government can’t hire some of the u employed Caymanians to help properly staff this department. God Bless the staff at the NAU as it is not an easy job and I have seen them being abused by some clients and it is shameful. I am thankfu for the help my family gets but they need to provide jobs for those of us that are unemployed.

      • Fred the Piemaker says:

        Same question occurred to me. If government departments like NAU or Immigration are understaffed, why are the y not hiring the unemployed Caymanians? Surely they don’t discriminate against Caymanians as everyone says the private sector firms do?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Why are non Caymanians getting support given strict legal prohibitions on foreign nationals who cannot support themselves even being here? Can someone please explain that?

  9. Anonymous says:

    In place by the end of 2019? That’s a ridiculously long time.


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