Poor Persons (Relief) Law under review

| 23/07/2018 | 31 Comments

(CNS): Government has confirmed a review of the Persons (Relief) Law (1997 Revision), which governors the current social welfare support provided to people by the Needs Assessment Unit. Responding in a ‘government minute’ to the findings of the Public Accounts Committee on a report by the Office of the Auditor General, which found a number of problems with the existing system, officials said that the legal review and recommendations for its amendment should be ready by the end of the year. The government has also said that under the new chief officer and her deputy, efficiency has already improved at the unit and new systems are being implemented.

The auditor general first reported on the myriad problems with the entire social assistance regime in Cayman in 2015. Then in July last year the office followed up on the implementation of its recommendations and found that “important matters remain outstanding up to two years after” the first report.

“Government has twelve difference social assistance programmes but without a social assistance strategy or even clear criteria for some of these programmes, government cannot be certain that the budget for welfare is being spent effectively,” Auditor General Sue Winspear wrote.

During the PAC meetings last September officials were grilled on how they were managing the situation, from questions about money spent on consultants for an outline business case to issues regarding failing systems and staff shortages. But in a frustrating session very little appeared to be cleared up. Soon after the meeting, the chief officer, Dorine Whittaker, was retired from the civil service.

But in the government minute, officials said they were largely in agreement with all the recommendations of the OAG and PAC. They claimed that the staff shortages have been addressed and with a new management team at the ministry in place, the unit is functioning more effectively.

The government is also going through the process of standardizing payments, developing a future strategy and streamlining the way social welfare is managed, but ‘the minute’ pointed to the need for the review of the law and the need for updated financial assistance legislation.

The response from government indicated that it has not spent any more money recently on consultants in relation to the future policy on welfare. Answering concerns about the cost and limitations of the outline business case developed by KPMG, officials said it had formed the basis for the newly emerging policies.

The department had spent more than $180,000 on the OBC by the local consultants but the auditor general and PAC concluded the report was a waste of public cash. From the outset, the auditor had warned that the terms of reference for the OBC given to KPMG were limited and that it was unlikely to ever produce the policy strategy that government needs to mange its growing social assistance programmes.

“We are talking about what is the policy you are trying to achieve for older people, for unemployed people, for disabled people,” Auditor General Sue Winspear said during the PAC meetings, as she explained that this would be the first step before beginning to consider how to deliver it all.

Government is moving towards a more standardized payment for all people in need. It recently increased the monthly payments made to the poor, elderly, seamen and veterans to $650 this year, increasing to $750 per month next. It has also moved to ensure that meagre payments for retired civil servants on government pensions will, in many case, be topped up to meet the current $650 monthly allowance.

But the Needs Assessment Unit still gives out a mixed bag of support to people, both temporary and permanent, for various amounts, depending on the criteria of the various benefits and the circumstances of those in need. From food vouchers and school lunches to rent and utilities, there is still a lack of clarity as to what local people can and can’t access, when and for how long. The unit is still assisting more than 2,000 families in Cayman, one way or another, and government spending on social assistance has reached record levels, despite a buoyant economy.

At the beginning of this month Premier Alden McLaughlin, who is also the community affairs minister, requested a further CI$2 million supplementary appropriations to meet an increase in demand for poor relief vouchers and rent for people in need.

“We have a situation in the country …which is a matter of considerable concern and deserving of more analysis,” he said, adding that despite all the indications of the “vastly improved economy”, including employment levels, the number of applications for assistance to the Needs Assessment Unit continues to increase year on year.

“We believe that there are a number of factors at play but there is clearly cause for concern,” he added.

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Category: Government oversight, Local News, Politics

Comments (31)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    90 percent brackers on welfare.. may retiring young…they just vote correctly and whollahhh????

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  2. Curious says:

    We really should not have SO many people receiving NAU benefits. With all the work permits that are issued monthly for cashier jobs, fast food servers, landscaping companies, etc, I often wonder why locals and even teens and college students don’t take employment at these businesses.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I love how they on welfare but they Miami shopping in Walmart and all over Dolphin Mall.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Why would they bother to work hard at these jobs when they can play the entitlement card and and get free handouts, including health care, from Government, all paid for by those of us who do work.

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    • Anonymous says:

      No one else wonders. They won’t work for that pay just take free handouts or much less. It’s pure laziness and excuse after excuse.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    I am not against helping those truly in need, as we never know the day that any of us might find ourselves in need of charity. However, extending the hand of charity to someone should not go beyond their basic needs. Here are a few steps that should be taken to save some money that could be better spent on other things.

    1. Government should not pay rent for any unit owned by an employee or close relative of anyone working for the NAU. Enough said on that.

    2. All units rented by government should be equipped with smart meters to cut off electricity and water at a pre-determined level daily. I shouldn’t have to walk around behind my children turning off lights and adjusting A/C temperatures, and yelling when they are in the shower too long so that the unemployed can live in inefficient apartments wasting my money on water and electricity that they don’t have to pay for.

    3. Government should not be giving assistance to anyone with cable TV, high-speed internet, cellphone service, especially with smart phones, or who think that they “need” to take their family on vacation while they are without a job.

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  4. ThIs WrItInG Is VeRy IrRiTaTiNg says:

    One way to save the NAU a pile of money would be to change the way health insurance works here. The companies providing health insurance limit the coverage as much as possible while making millions in profits for their shareholders. Employed Caymanians who need medical attention that is not covered by their health insurance policies, even if they are on the top tier plans, then need to turn to NAU to get coverage through CINICO. It would make more sense to have universal health care where everyone pays a percentage of their income and is covered for everything.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    Two points: Firstly, CIG does not have an income problem and we do not need to impose yet more taxes on our people and industries. CIG has a spending and accountability problem. I cannot understand why anyone suggests an income tax or any other additional form of tax without first requiring CIG to better account for how they spend the money we already give them. Secondly, CIG needs to stop already with the “reviews” – we all know the system has problems and there are plenty of reports already on the shelf to identify them. Start fixing them – if CIG made an effort to end benefits to those who aren’t truly in need, don’t qualify, are receiving duplicate benefits from different schemes, etc. – even though they might then become unhappy voters – there would almost certainly be enough to help those who are truly in need.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    I don feel like workin so I needz assessed so’s Iz can get paid.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    It’s time for the introduction of income tax, paying for universal healthcare and a proper social security system.

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    • Diogenes says:

      Good luck with that,
      Most politicians wouldn’t even dare whisper the word “tax” out of fear of being voted out
      Much less actually implement a full tax regime, with the necessary individual reporting and collection agency that would have to be implemented

      Even the PPM wouldn’t be so bold
      Though Cayman could certainly do with a tax or two

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      • Diogenes says:

        We need to elect persons who are willing to tell us the harsh truths, the truths we as a people collectively don’t want to hear
        We elect these people who whisper sweet nothings and sing their own praises as the Titanic is sinking and then wonder why we don’t have enough to get everything we need done

        If a payroll tax for development is needed ( not boardwalks and piers for GT waterfront duty free businesses ) actual needed developments school facilities, libraries, an expanded prison and police stations and other resources etc is needed
        Sign me up

        What we are doing now is not working

        Dio

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    • Anonymous says:

      Introduce income taxes and watch the Cayman Islands’ economy slowly deteriorate. Cayman enjoys the vast majority of its success to date precisely due to the fact that it is a tax free jurisdiction.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Its not as if Cayman is really ”tax free
        the government collects revenues indirectly

        Why is it that we in Cayman feel that we are above the basic system of revenue collections that is in place (literally) around the world
        We expect all the government services and benefits of a fully funded government without actually contributing towards it

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        • Anonymous says:

          Taxation requires infrastructure and oversight, you lose a fair bit of what you set out to collect, especially where set costs are high vs the number of people paying tax. As you say everyone already contributes, so if more money is needed, and no-one has shown that Government needs more money, or can’t be more efficiently run, there are mechanisms to increase the taxation without adding another one. It’s also pretty hard to avoid paying!

      • Anonymous says:

        BS!

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      • Anonymous says:

        Unlike the rest of the world CIG has huge revenues from tourist tax and financial services fees which is why they don’t need more revenue from income tax which would destroy our economy in a heart beat.

    • Anonymous says:

      The last time some idiot suggested income tax the housing market had a seizure.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The public funds being wasted by OfReg would do good for persons in need. The amount of money spent on travel alone is mind blowing!

    I would be most grateful if someone could pls tell me their purpose because all now I can’t see any benefit from having that Authority except, to waste money and give friends of the present Govt, a job and approve increases for CUC and WAC.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Looks like someone read the Dart-owned Compass which is bashing OfReg as it attempts to limit Dart’s monopolies.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Darts monopolies?!!!! lol. what about CUC’s monopoly. If there is one company on island, that seems to avoid a massive amount of scrutiny, is CUC.
        CUC is raping the island. And it could easily be fixed with competition. Dart even tried to start generating electricity, and CUC and gov said not so fast. CUC knew if dart started, they could continue to grow and become direct competition for CUC. and CUC could not have that!

        So please…dart monopoly. What has dart costed you monthly? Now compare that to CUC.

    • West Bay Premier says:

      11:37 pm , you missed in their benefits , the vacation traveling . I believe that the people including expats who live on the Islands , needs to come together with the people who can vote , and protest and do a petition to have OFReg DEMOLISHED .

      Ask yourselves these questions, how is OFReg helping YOU ? what is it doing for the commodities that YOU are paying for ? And do we need a Regulatory Board like OFReg ? NO . If YOU ALL sit down and just keep writing comments, Your gas , electric, water , phone , Internet , is just going to go higher in prices.

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      • Anonymous says:

        And just look at these huge OFReg salaries going to all those people including failed politicians and businessmen. It’s sickening.

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      • Anonymous says:

        West Bay Premier – you’re on point. We all know Caymanians will complain until the cows come home but won’t march or sign a petition to demonstrate their disgust! So it’s sad but as you say they will continue to see their utilities increase.

  9. A Direct Fee says:

    We need a simple payroll tax (nothing fancy and effecting our banks and financial industry).

    People need to swallow their pride, and understand that it doesn’t make sense for the LA to always have to allot funds to replenish the NAU and social services. Simply have a sustaining tax payroll system in place to be earmarked to the NAU.

    I know many will not like this comment or the idea of tax. But presently government is still using taxpayers monies indirectly.

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    • Anonymous says:

      absolutely not. All you people coming from countries that love to tax their people. One very true infinite thing that happens with “taxes” especially pay roll and personal income tax. the tax will just go up and up and up.
      It never stops.
      Look at bermuda. They implemented a pay roll tax. They said, ahh it’s only this much, nothing to worry about. This happened 13 years ago, ” it’s only 3 percent of your pay!” since then it’s up to 6%!
      Think they will stop there? no they will not. Eventually it will be 9 and then 15. And once they can’t tax that anymore. It’s a simple side step to implement another tax.
      Those of you who come from countries that are now so heavily taxed, that you move here. If you miss taxes so much, go back.
      unbelievable. What makes this country great is the government has to (just like everyone else) live within their means. This is the best government in the world. And I was not born here. But I love this country. So take your crappy ideas elsewhere.

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      • The watcher says:

        I think you are looking at this in quite a naiive, juvenile fashion. Please dont believe for one minute that this is being done for your benefit or it is the product of legend involving a king, crashed ships and the Cayman Islands.

        Whilst the Cayman Islands does not have direct taxation, it is still levied indirectly by stealth.

        There are two good reasons for this – the government makes more tax money by indirectly taxing.
        There is no self sustaining tax base present or evident which would be the last pre requisite for the UN article for Independence.

        You may not be paying any tax on your income but you will pay 22 per cent on almost everything else!

        The reason why direct tax cannot be implemented is simply …the population is not big enough. It would cost more to administer than would be gained.

        The ideal population would be a minimum of 7500 which means making more Caymanians, building more houses, diversifying the economic strands such as medical tourism, Technology park etc.

        Ring any bells yet? Soon come Bobo

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    • Say it like it is says:

      Direct Fee – income tax ix not a bad idea but restricting it to the financial industry sure is. We have a lot of fat cats in Govt and elsewhere who need to contribute as well. The best way is to tax anyone earning above a certain limit say somewhere between $75,000 and $100,000.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Can somebody let me know when this Premier gets his head out of the sand!? NOT A CLUE & HAS NO SOLUTIONS! The sad part is this ‘Unity Government’ knows exactly what is going on and is choosing to not change or think outside the box. Why don’t we put a freeze on work permits for a couple of months? Why don’t we really consider the suggestion by MLA Suckoo around analyzing the root causes to why NAU is seeing more and more demands on their services….because believe or not…. the well can run dry…. and all the work permit fees collected isn’t and won’t be enough! And forget about this foolishness about increasing the population to 100K…. only an astronaut must of came up with that bright idea!!!… but it does sound like something the Premier would come up with….. its a good way to import more cheap bar tenders and the like to serve him his drinks…..disgrace! We really need a clause in the election law to be able to recall an ineffective MLA and not have to wait until the next election. #weneedchange #needitbefore2021

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