NAU challenged by ministry action and client numbers

| 11/09/2017 | 46 Comments

(CNS): Tamara Hurlston, the director of the Needs Assessment Unit, revealed that her department is helping more than 1,800 families but the number of people in need is growing. Painting a picture of a department challenged by the increase in people seeking help on one hand and a lack of direction from the ministry on the other, Hurlston said the unit was never properly staffed or funded. She revealed that the ministry had stopped the recruitment of officers it needed and had been budgeted for.

The last witness before the Public Accounts Committee on the issue, Hurlston gave a candid account of the challenges she is facing. Asked about staff and recruitment she made it clear that the ministry had frozen her plans to recruit enough staff to manage the workload and what were meant to be full assessments of the people coming to them for help, be it money for housing, health or even food.

She said the unit was so busy and so short staffed that they could not even answer the phone because of the amount of people turning up at the unit. Hurlston said she had asked the ministry to get the full complement of staff as budgeted because she was dealing with the needs of more than 1,800 families with just 12 officers and four accounts staff processing thousands of payments.

Among the many other serious problems the unit is facing, the director pointed to the lack supporting legislation, as she said the unit needed teeth to hold clients accountable and direct them to relevant programmes to help them become self-sufficient.

She also said that she had told the ministry that the demand for social assistance would increase over the next decade, not just because the numbers of people are growing but because rents are going up and the cost of living is increasing and the benefits people receive are already insufficient. When asked by PAC Chair Ezzard Miller about the possibility of the budget decreasing after the department review and the implementation of new policies, Hurlston said that unless something dramatic happened the budget was set to grow.

She explained that the people coming to her department are doing so when they are in serious trouble, having been made homeless, their utilities cut off or seeking food because they are starving.  She spoke about the challenges the unit also has with landlords who don’t want to take certain families because of the problems they may present, and in such circumstances they are housing families in hotel. But she also described a confusing picture of the ministry taking control of the unit’s recruitment and putting a block on the vacancies Hurlston was trying to fill.

The chair tried to find out what was happening with the recruitment, as he raised concerns over the fact that the chief officer in the ministry had redirected the unit’s budgeted appropriation for staff to recruit other people to deal with housing repairs instead. Hurlston spoke about the panel getting as far as making a decision on some posts and even making an offer for one important position, but the ministry put the recruitment process on hold.

Miller said he empathized with Hurlston, who he said had painted a “substantially different picture” and he said the PAC would be making strong recommendations about getting the NAU the staff it needed.

See featured comment: Dear PAC: more on the Needs Assessment Unit

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Category: Government oversight, Local News, Politics

Comments (46)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    They need to re-locate this unit. It is located behind Guy Harvey’s on the waterfront.

    Not the proper location for a needs assessment unit. Tourist destination?

  2. Anonymous says:

    @ 3:56 when I say pay for their crime I mean they have had their freedom taken away etc, daaa I know taxpayers pay to house them in whichever prison they are in.

  3. Anonymous says:

    1800 families?!? That seems rather high given the small number of Caymanians. In fact it seems like about 50% of them.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Many persons seeking assistance have at some point in their lives made some wrong decisions and ended up in HMP Northward or Fairbanks. After serving their time and paying for their crime they find it almost IMPOSSIBLE to be gainfully employed because of a Police Record. These persons then must think about a few options, seek assistance from the Government (despite being ‘able bodied’ and wanting to be employed), depend on family members or go back to the life that landed them in prison to start with, Why do you think there are so many repeat offenders in our prisons??

    • Anonymous says:

      Wrong. Police records are not the problem. Every country on earth has persons with records who re-integrate into productive lives with a record. The problem is not the record. The problem is an immigration system that allows unscrupulous employers in construction in particular to ask for and get all the work permits they want and not employ Caymanians because the Caymanian applicants have convictions. That is too often a bullshit excuse, and for entry level jobs is often an irrelevance, of course depending on the nature of the conviction.

      • Anonymous says:

        Dat wa you get bad boy

      • Anonymous says:

        8:55 pm the people coming here are employed, but their police records are worse that some of our petty crime persons who have spent time in prison. So many if those seem work oermit holders have been arrested, charge and imprisoned. Yet we find unscrupulous employers still applying for work permits and employing them. As long as they come by plane they believe that their record is clean. lmao at their stupidity.

    • Anonymous says:

      8:28 pm, you say after serving their time and paying for their crime. You should think, we the tax payers are paying for them by they cost $ 65,000 P.M. and they don’t do any public work free, so they don;t pay for their crime, they take it easy and relax in Northward and just wait to get out so they can commit another crime and get back in the Northward Hotel.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I wish someone had asked and we had the question answered as to how many of these destitute people are non Caymanians. Posters on CNS are always going on about the fact that the people applying for help are those who were given status in 2003 ((Jamaicans) and that most of the prisoners in Northward are non Caymanian (Jamaicans). Those of us who deal with this problem know it isn’t true but it would be nice to hear someone like Ezzard acknowledge it publicly. Of course, it doesn’t suit him to.

    • Anonymous says:

      All the “destitute” persons you are referring to are in fact CAYMANIAN or like myself, have Caymanian Status. NAU does an exceptional job on this subject. You seem to think it is only foreign nationals who have acquired status that are the problem. Let me enlighten you a little bit – the vast majority, repeat vast majority of recipients are born bred and raised CAYMANIANS. If you doubt this former employee, then why don’t you do a FOI (Freedom of Information) request.

      • Anonymous says:

        It is not legally possible in most instances to become Caymanian if you cannot support yourself and your dependents.

        Please explain why government is supporting so many of them?

        • Anonymous says:

          8:24am Chek thwork permit holders, who roam the streets looking for work. Those same people are our problem. They have to live, so they do whatever it takes to get what they want. The baby machine factory is a liability, so shut it down? NAU is only encouragement for them to have more children. Invest in birth control and it would codt government less money to assist them. Have a family court for deadbeat Dads.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Most of these people are not in need and are taking advantage of the system..

    • Anonymous says:

      I say Amen to that, and the director is clueless.

      • Anonymous says:

        The director is not clueless, she just does not have enough man power to do all the proper investigations needed

      • Anonymous says:

        Wouldn’t totally agree that the Director is clueless, but I would question the Director’s lack of Personnel Management experience prior to taking up the post – would also question the Deputy’s similar lack of experience as well as the NAU Managers lack of experience.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are right. However, there is unfortunately a significant portion of the population that has a genuine need. The system of checks and balances is very poor and NAU does not have the staffing or Ministry/political leadership to back them up.

    • Anonymous says:

      All Moms no Dads

      • Anonymous says:

        Equal number of dads. The problem is they are in Jamaica or otherwise immune from any enforcement of parental obligations.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed. Saw it first hand the other day whilst trying to get assistance for my kids and I as well. A lady who owns a 2017 infinity jeep that lives in WB who just remodeled her upstairs home…vs those who have no car, no home of their own to remodel etc…
      The place is so damn small it doesn’t matter who u know. It’s who knows you and they help who the hell they want majority of the times.

  7. Anonymous says:

    behinning of end!? how can the country be employing roughly 30, 000 foreigners y have so much need ????

  8. Anonymous says:

    Too many lazy people being given welfare. Yet those same people find money to party with.

    • Anonymous says:

      Bet they all have smart phones and play the numbers.

    • Anonymous says:

      Partially agree with this statement. There is a segment of NAU clients who seem to be fit this statement. Their mindset is that NAU can pay the rent, food, electricity and water – and if they catch a day or two of work that is party money.

      And the usual persons can be seen at the local thirst parlours or liquor stores – makes you wonder when someone comes into the office hollering about their food card not working, yet you saw them out the day before in public drinking liquor.

  9. BELONGER says:

    Tamara Hurlston appears to be a “very competent” civil servant who really wants to move to NAU forward to gain positive results. Unfortunately, I cannot say that for her Chief Officer and the rest of the clowns in the ministry.

    The C.O and those in her ministry needs to do their Fu$#%^& jobs and if they don’t know how to do their jobs at this point in their careers; then they should be retired or replaced immediately.

    They enjoy their cushy positions in the Government Administration Building, continuing the status quo and wasting $180,000 CI on irrelevant consultant(s) reports that later get thrown into the garbage or placed on shelves to catch dust.

    Such a waste of Public Funds that could really be used to help some genuine people in need…….. in our community.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Dear 1:07

    There is none, same with all the other ministries. Each department do as they please with no consequences. Now that is PROGRESSIVE!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      That is CAYMANIAN

      • Anonymous says:

        Is this really paradise as one blogger stated recently? You know what I cannot really fathom what has caused the Cayman Islands to find the country in such bad situation I am really wondering if the situation will get better or worse. This is not encouraging for our children. Please dont let us end up a welfare state!

        • Anonymous says:

          1:39 am the only how we can stop the Cayman Islands from becoming a welfare state, is by reducing teenage pregnancies and recruiting poverty, then dishing out status to those individuals.

    • Anonymous says:

      The politicians and the people they put in charge of departments are Caymanians, your blood, and you (as in Caymanians )vote them into office and then cry about what you get. SIDD

      • Anonymous says:

        So, basically, “us Caymanians” are like the Americans and the British and everyone else…nothing unique to it. We have the same issues.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I would like to get a better understanding of the assessment process as it is quite concerning that such a large number rely on Government help.

    Also, are there statistics available that shows the demographic of those in need? Is it mainly elderly people, those who can’t find a job, sick people who are unable to work, single parents, those who at one point obtained status…..? We need a breakdown so we know how to address the root of the problem rather then trying to cure with bandaids.

    • Anonymous says:

      You seem to assume that all the recipients/beneficiaries of aid even have status in the first place. It seems many may not.

      • Anonymous says:

        Another popular myth. How do you figure that? Proof of status is the first line on the application form.

        • Anonymous says:

          No it does not. Look at it again. It asks citizenship and then suggests you circle whether you are Caymanian, a status holder (as if there is a difference), the spouse of a Caymanian or other. The notes then confirm that anyone in a household including foreign dependents of Caymanians are eligible for assistance. Suppose a foreign national gets granted status, and imports 5 foreign members of their family. They need help to survive in Cayman. Guess what happens. All get assistance!

      • Anonymous says:

        All of the clients that I processed/assisted were Caymanians or like me, have Caymanian Status. The public can rest assured that foreign nationals do not routinely receive NAU assistance – but in certain circumstances receive assistance if there is A CAYMANIAN child in their house and under their care.

    • Anonymous says:

      Outstanding question 12:08PM – now I will publicly challenge PAC, Mr. Miller, the relevant Ministry and NAU to make the statistics available.

      But let me tell the public that producing the statistics will be a challenge. NAU relies on a very weak automated programme known as FAS, FAS reminds me of the automated systems of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Unless significant improvements have been initiated with FAS, any IT person would laugh at how backwards it is.

      When I worked there I made multiple suggestions to the NAU Manager and Deputy Director on how the system could be improved. I was frankly told that it was not my job and to do my job only – gee thanks for the encouragement. FAS did not allow you to sort out statistics by area (ie. BT, WB, EE, NS, CB,etc). FAS did not allow you to sort out Male or Female recipients, did not sort our how many had children, how many were permanently disabled (whether physical/mental/or age), did not sort daily numbers on how many got assistance for rent, food, electricity etc. I could go on and on – but it was NAU management’s lack of being receptive to improvements which I consider to be appalling – no excuses don’t want to here about being understaffed.

      Now I seriously doubt that the NAU management will publicly disavow my allegations as everything I am asserting should still be on my former NAU email account – unless a bug has mysteriously made it disappear.

  12. Anonymous says:

    What – the Ministry is responsible for NAU??? This is news?


    CNS: The rest of this comment can be read here: Dear PAC: more on the Needs Assessment Unit

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you CNS for publishing my comments. I really do hope that Mr. Miller will read this article..

      Sign Me,

      Former NAU Employee

  13. Anonymous says:

    Who is this chief officer in the ministry?

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