André promises radical change for those in need

| 06/12/2021 | 80 Comments
Social Development Minister André Ebanks addresses Parliament

(CNS): Social Development Minister André Ebanks has promised “transformative change” across the social services landscape of the Cayman Islands, which includes repealing and replacing the “horribly titled” Poor People’s Relief Act in the first quarter of next year and a significant increase in investment in what will become the Financial Assistance Department. According to the budget documents, the minister plans to spend at least CI$27 million more in 2022 than was spent this year helping those in need.

Ebanks said he had had to stand his ground to get the additional cash needed from this budget but that in time, as the improvements were rolled out, spending would decline as the root causes and social problems the department currently deals with were solved.

Ebanks is not the first minister to promise an overhaul of the welfare system but all of his predecessors failed because they had been “outgunned” due to insufficient resources, he said. However, even if it was through sheer force of will, he would “radically change social development infrastructure”.

The minister outlined a long list of changes to address the long-term consequences of neglect, income inequality, generational poverty and impaired access to property ownership, and he explained the challenges created by the current outdated system.

He committed to advancing the social development of the Caymanian people, which was “sorely lacking”, and revealed plans to change a number of laws, including the adoption law, the children’s law and the health services law, as well as the poor relief legislation.

Under the new legislation, welfare would be connected to some form of work, even if that is a voluntary contribution to the community, he explained.

The minister said he was going to change the look of the Needs Assessment Unit (NAU) and make it more comfortable for clients and staff, as he described the unpleasant environment that greets people who are already “on their last legs asking for help”. He said the system would be automated so that people can make applications online, including via mobile phones.

Ebanks also promised to work with the minister of health to tackle the “absurd” system of applying for indigent healthcare coverage, where people bounce between the NAU, the HSA and the Department of Children and Family Services, so that it is signed off by a medical professional and not the minister for social services.

The minister also promised to increase the number of officers at NAU to speed up the service there and social workers at the DCFS.

“Right now, the director estimates that the caseload per social worker is one social worker per 90 cases — not 19, 90. There is no human being that has the cognitive capacity to keep up with all those cases with intricate social problems,” the minister said.

“This budget is trying to get closer to the international standard of one to 35,” he added but said he could only get to one to 50 in this budget. The Sunrise Adult Training centre will also be moved to a more central location and expanded.

“To say that the facility is inadequate is an understatement,” he said, adding that the differently abled people at the centre are ready and able to work and just need a helping hand. “It also has a wait list, so that means there are differently able children graduating from Lighthouse School who can’t get to the next level… The situation is unacceptable.”

He also spoke about the multitude of problems surrounding people losing their homes. He described the vicious circle they get trapped in when they cannot find landlords who will rent to them when they are getting help through the NAU, as he spoke about plans to create some transitional government housing in crown-owned property.

However, Ebanks described social spending as an investment and said that if the country can get to the root causes and get people back into work, this would decrease. He described creating a virtuous circle within his Ministry of Innovation and Social Development.

See Ebanks’ contribution to the budget debate below on CIGTV:

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Category: Laws, Policy, Politics

Comments (80)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    If I was a Caymanian musician, I would be extremely disappointed with the inactivity of Cayman Music & Entertainment Association – CMEA Lobby group these last couple years. Our musicians should be getting all the work they’ll ever need since there is no imported competition, and a captive audience. Where are all of the live music events that should be happening?

    • Anonymous says:

      Where are all of the live music events that should be happening, 8:36? In two words: Covid happened.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “Radical” is always a good approach when first entering the government clueless and with zero experience

  3. Anonymous says:

    Please let’s get this straight – Not ALL public officers get free medical coverage (SAGC staff pay 20% like all private employees) and not ALL retired public officers get free health care (SAGC retirees pay their share).

    I retired from the public service as an SAGC employee but as a “Civil Servant” after almost 40 years of service. At the time, Government/SAGCs had NO health insurance arrangements in place for SAGC retirees(except CAL I think)! I had to spend a multi 5 figure amount of my retirement pension in legal fees to address and secure my coverage, which I now have and pay 20% (subject to annual deductibles). Note, after all that, the arrangements remain in place “at the discretion” of my past employer, definitely not an “entitlement”!

    At the time, the same situation affected most SAGC employees. Why? Because “leaders” of the CS made unilateral and unannounced changes to the applicable CS Regulations, without affected staff of some SAGCs being notified (a few selected CEOs & HRMs were aware. In the interim the ball was dropped and for years some retirees had to pay in full for their own health coverage – I did for two years after I retired!). Sometime around 2016 the matter was finally resolved.

    BTW, a little known fact is that when some SAGCs were created, some employees were transitioned as “civil servants”, depending on their tenure at the given time.

    • Anonymous says:

      Happy for you. I am a 20+ year SAGC veteran who didn’t previously work as a Civil Servant so my health insurance quote is US$5,000 per month at retirement for the same service my SAGC now pays less than US$2,000 per month for.

      I’m sure the Finance Minister will run his re-election platform on fixing this.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Au contraire Beaumont, 07 @ 11:45am was useful information indeed! Wonder if Andre saw that coming?

    That’s the “norm” for the Caymanian political “system” these days, though! Handout mentality! Jim Bodden’s legacy! The real shame is that two full generations (three or four “modern Cayman” generations) now expect that from their politicians! Values, capability, ideals, principles mean nothing! It’s for me (and mine) not what’s best for us all! Populism now…soon it’ll be gutter politics at it’s worst! Thank God my generation has seen better in Cayman but we probably won’t ever again!

    I know MANY “Caymanized” expats (I don’t use that in a derogatory way, just as a collective of eligible people of foreign birth, whatever legal category they may fall) whom I wish would/could run!! But then, many of them may shun it for the same reasons well educated and principled Caymanians do!

    Someone responded to one of my comments as “very prejudiced pseudo Caymanian”. I responded, “VERY prejudiced REAL Caymanian, prejudiced to stupidity and corruption!”.

    Call me a prejudiced Caymanian in your shallow context if it get’s you off but as far as I can tell, a lot of our political “leadership” over the past 40 years has been somewhere in the neighbourhood of both…save a handful!

    Hey, I had a bag of exclamation points and had to use them before they expired!!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I think sometimes we mistake what happens in the USA wit churches against what happens here in Cayman. Every single church has had to be registered as an NPO. Every year they have to provide proper accounting of their records to the Government. This is to ensure that churches are not being used to launder money. I also find it a little bit disingenuous that folks keep piling on and asking what are churches doing. If you want to know what churches are doing, let me give you a few examples:

    – Every Saturday morning turn up at St. George’s Anglican Church as they do their soup kitchen and during the week for their food pantry donations
    – Every Sunday at the Seventh Day Adventist Churches as they serve breakfasts and lunches to the less fortunate
    – The United Churches in the Cayman Islands and what they do in the community
    Many churches tend to do their work behind the scenes and these are just some of the churches of which I am aware that really do good work in the community, sometimes with little resources themselves.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Oh please. I live almost accross from Andre office in West Bay and first thing in the morning all you can see is cokeheads on bicycles laying down in his driveway waiting for they dailies. Everyday from he rented that house on Willi Farrington drive

    • Beaumont Zodecloun says:

      Yours was not useful information.

    • Anonymous says:

      An absolute lie. Two points:
      1. Someone riding a bicycle does not mean the person is a coke head. Not everyone has the luxury of a personal vehicle, which brings me to the next point.
      2. The lovely ladies in Andres office have gone above and beyond to help not only his constituents but many other Caymanians apply for jobs – and most recently – sign up for the community clean up program.

      Just say you don’t like Andre and move along but stop making crap up.

  7. Kman says:

    Wow so giving away money is now fashionable I see and we’re now a welfare state. Instead of investing this money in to training, creating a local top business school and further education we’re making our people poor, government reliant and uneducated.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is a lot of training involved. Just to apply for the assistance they will have to be internet savvy and own an iPhone13 to be able to access their bank account to check for the direct deposits. All of the training and technology just to be able to get the money will qualify them to “work from home”, most likely in some government department.

    • Anonymous says:

      You clearly failed comprehension at your expensive school.

      Fixing the causes of poverty means less poverty in the future. What you suggest, teaching already comfortable people to be better at jobs they can already do, does nothing for those who cannot get an MBA as they cannot eat or pay the rent.

      Selfish and short sighted.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Waiting for him and Saunders to pitch basic universal income in 3,2,1…

  9. Anonymous says:

    How about investing in education from a young age so the future generations have the skills and capabilities to potentially do the higher paid finance jobs one day?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Andre certainly has the gift of gab. He speaks well and says absolutely nothing!

  11. Anonymous says:

    It would be nice to pay the Cuban government a stipend or buy an island to send the poor too. The mere presence of the brings down property vale’s and the look of the islands.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Bla, bla, bla!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Start with free birth control for all those that need a handout …survival of the fittest must prevail The current method of feeding and taking care of the needy will only lead to suffering of all…

    • Anonymous says:

      Mandated birth control you mean.

    • Anonymous says:

      The “family values” church lobbyists rail against customer-paid birth control access, let alone subsidy. Even safe sex rubbers, are offered only behind the counter, and more often than not, only in some embarrassing male tickled edition that few want to put their hand up and buy, unless on a dare. Churches play a big role in our social ills, breed crime, and do very little to counter all of it, and nil accounting of their community efforts. Cayman, for all it’s hate, has more Churches per capita than almost anywhere on Earth…why is that? What service are they providing? Why aren’t we reading editorials about them helping our people in need?!?

    • Anonymous says:

      You started so well. Free birth control is well proven to help poor people manage their families better.

      But then you went into Eugenics, intimation that you don’t believe that those same poor people have an equal right to be alive.

      Do better

    • Anonymous says:

      Legalize abortion

  14. Anonymous says:

    And there I was having high hopes for André.

    • Anonymous says:

      Man up Andre and save your country.
      Mac Saunders and Kenneth will do anything to encourage the importation of poverty from our nearby neighbors so they can get their wotes.
      You want your children to grow up in Cayman or Jamaica!?

    • Darlene Mckenzie says:

      Free internet service for the clients while they are awaiting on service.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Well this is certainly a declaration in no uncertain terms that Cayman is entering the fast lane to be come a fully fledged Welfare State. It will be so efficient and easy to get money, one would be able to sit under a grape tree on the beach and apply on your government bought cell phone!

    Oh wait, they will “watch the beach” as “voluntary work contribution” towards their hand out. Don’t laugh, I’m serious. You can’t make this stuff up.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yep they’re just buying votes for next election. This is the beginning of the end. Next they will run out of money, blame the rich and try to tax them. But they will just leave and we will become Bermuda.

      • Anonymous says:

        Bermuda with a great modern airport with jet ways and a superb bus transportation system.

        Would be hard to take.

        • Anonymous says:

          Also restricts foreign ownership of property, more than one car per household and the most terrible social and race problems.
          Pretty place, ugly picture.

        • Anonymous says:

          Bus drivers regularly on strike and bus service runs at a loss to government.

    • Robert Mugabe IV says:

      I’m not going to read any other comments on this headline. You have said all that’s needs to be said.
      Andre believes that what is already a welfare state, needs to become an Ultra Welfare State. WHY ?
      Sadly the man hasn’t a clue how many families truly are in dire need of help and how many other wasters belonging to particular families (going back decades) that have never looked to help themselves but instead take for granted what the Government’s of the day give them.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I appreciate the commitment to review and update the various laws. The next and most important part is to implement and execute fairly. Like many areas in Government this is the part missing.
    On another note, if NGOs seek Government assistance why not have them committed to helping the most vulnerable through programs which maybe already established. It makes no sense for Government to be double spending when it can be offered through one channel.
    More unity equals better results

    • Anonymous says:

      As part of basic AML compliance, Churches should have to fully account for their tithing receipts, foreign and government subsidies, and what they do with that money, or loose their charitable status, duty free perks, and their corporate veil (and drilling down into any other subsidiary companies they might be running). That should be a very low minimum hurdle, in line with what everyone else has to do. In the public interest, it should be published so anyone can review it, and determine who’s been naughty or nice. More helpful if it could go back 15 years at least. There should be a continuous audit and supervision of these organisations in positions of opaque trust as the temptation to go off-mission has been so great in the past. I think we already know what we are likely to find, and it isn’t good.

      • Anonymous says:

        You left our prosecution for any criminal acts when necessary.

      • Anonymous says:

        They do. Churches are caught by the NPO Act. Whether the compliance department of the registry of NPOs is actually conducting desktop or onsite inspections is the unknown piece.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Speaking of seamen’s benefits. I am aware that the Seamen’s Association recently opened its membership to the sons of seamen. I know that is to ensure the survival of the Assn., as most surviving seamen are elderly and waning.

    However, does anyone know if these sons are also now eligible for the seaman’s benefits? If so, that is total BS and simply giving away public money! I can’t get a response from official sources. Anyone?

    • Anonymous says:

      And the only women who should receive the Seamans pension & free medical after the men die is those they were married to at the time of their setvice.

  18. Anonymous says:

    This is long overdue. You will always have scammers and lazy people taking advantage of these systems but most people who avail themselves of these services are truly in need. With the amount of money flowing in, and around, Cayman no one should be living in poverty. No one wants to, or enjoys going to, NAU.
    If they can just give mental health the proper attention it deserves then Caymanians might have something for which to feel proud…they truly are Christians only one day a week, if that.

  19. Anonymous says:

    It’s so forward thinking to hand out money. This bunch are real problem solvers. Why improve the economy and foster job creation when you can just hand money out. Oh wait, fostering job creation requires thought and work that could extend beyond an election cycle.

    • Anonymous says:

      This man is sending out a message to
      People that they don’t need to work,Government will give them, that a big problem, years ago Government didnt hand out money so everyone went to work doing some kind of job or another now Government are spoiling the lazy ones.

    • Digging the hole deeper says:

      Growing the welfare state as he joint ventures with Dart to bring in more mega developers, And that’s really going to make things better, yeah right.

  20. Anonymous says:

    How about enforcing family support orders and not allowing people to collect anything from CIG if they owe child support.

  21. Work not, want not. says:

    I have a suggestion for the Compass’ Word of the Week – “Stipend” , definition – “generous monthly handout to Caymanians who have supposedly lost their jobs” where they are paid whether they have a job or not.Is this the forerunner of the proposed “transformative change”?.

  22. Anonymous says:

    About time the pensioners were taken care of. Not the too lazy to work crowd.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I have to agree with him on the “horribly titled” Poor People’s Relief Act. It seems like anyone is entitled to the money, and with the 90 cases per social worker there is no time to check, and even checking the background is no use when the politicians say “give this supporter, I mean poor man, $1,500 per month. And some seaman’s benefits, and he looks old enough to be a veteran, etc.”

    The only people who can’t get relief are those who really are poor. Making applications online with mobile phone tells you that Andre really understands his customer.

    • Beaumont Zodecloun says:

      Agree completely. It is a disgrace how some of our Seamen and their immediate families are treated; these are people who paid their dues many times over, but are trying to live on a tiny “stipend”.

      Okay, I’m going all in and dare to hope that this means significant change. “Under the new legislation, welfare would be connected to some form of work, even if that is a voluntary contribution to the community, he explained.” Hurrah!

      I think we need some form of nationalised health care. The working people have been forced to pay into health care administered by insurance companies, which covers catastrophic events, but not so much in the way of day-to-day. Even worse for those over 60, who can only sign up for the CINICO Silver Plan, which, again, covers emergency services, but only pays $400 per year in doctor visits/prescriptions.

      CINICO may not be the answer, but I think if it were nationalised, we could all enjoy a broader base with more benefit and less cost, and bring almost everyone in line with the benefits Civil Service employees enjoy.

      • Anonymous says:

        I expect you would be hard pressed to find many people with good private insurance who want it Nationalized and even the CINICO that Civil Servants get is different than the CINICO for others.

        • Say it like it is. says:

          5.54pm The CINICO that Civil Servants get is on a different planet to the CINICO that others get and to rub it in Civil Servants get it FREE!.

        • Beaumont Zodecloun says:

          That’s what I’m saying mang! The disparity between the stellar benefits of Civil Service and the average mook could be closed IF there were a good management of CINICO and it were nationalised!

          It wouldn’t affect those with “good private insurance”. Don’t you get that? You want to keep your high-priced local insurance, then fine! I am paying close to $2000 per month for just me and my Bride. Do you think that is right at any age? I do not, and I think we can do much better.

          As said, I’m not positive that CINICO is the instrument that will bring us all into the light, but it does already have a structure of sorts. What we need to do is create an opportunity for people who want to divorce the high-priced insurance-based health care. Sound goood?

          • Anonymous says:

            Nobody needs CINICO. The HSA can’t legally refuse treatment to anyone. Run the bill up as high as you want.

            • Beaumont Zodecloun says:

              So feel free to rack up a bill and not pay it, right?

              Model resident you are. I hope those who need your services repay you in kind. ;o)

        • Anonymous says:

          Unless you have spent your entire life working in the insurance industry, nobody over 60 has ‘good’ private insurance.

          I was once young and healthy, in my 20’s, and paid into a health insurance plan for years without making a claim.

          In my 40’s I had a family with children and the amount of insurance benefits received was good value for money. I still paid in more than I took out, but insurance covered the risk of those who had the unfortunate experience of having one of their kids sent out by air ambulance for treatment.

          Now in my 60’s, the insurance companies no longer want me as a client. The fact that I am healthy and still paying more in than I take out is immaterial to them. I am now in the high-risk category of likely to claim more than I pay in and they are not interested in covering anyone in that category.

          Insurance companies have done a good job of cherry-picking their clients with the aid of successive governments. They know that the “good private insurance” you refer to is the cheap rates for younger people who cannot be persuaded by the argument to pay more today so you can still have “reasonable” instead of “good” coverage when they reach their 60’s.

          Insurance companies know the divide and conquer format very well. They have been using it for eternity.

      • Anonymous says:

        So right and how much does a month does a person pay into insurance? Total robbery!

        • Beaumont Zodecloun says:

          It IS robbery. Insurance is betting against yourself and hoping you lose.

          Okay, so we are in a time where insurance is not only necessary, but mandated. Let us create an instrument that well supports ALL the people here, with the least cost, and greatest benefit. Government should be ALL over this, because it’s one of the best ways to lessen the financial burden on families and promote their financial stability.

  24. Anonymous says:

    It is good to see that the vulnerable and needy will be getting help from CIG.

    We need to help people, who truly need it, get assistance and help required.

    We need to not, however, become a welfare state, but rather help people get assistance and help needed, and then take off the training wheels, so that they can become positive contributors to Cayman’s society.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is already a Welfare State for people that know people or seem like a decent block of votes.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Giving people money and free housing is real incentive for them to look for work.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Handout capital of the world

    • Anonymous says:

      I always find people who say this to be among the stupidest in existence. Cayman is one of the most fend-for-yourself capitalist places in the world. Nearly 100 countries have universal healthcare. Some countries are trying the idea of universal basic income i.e. you get paid whether or not you choose to work. The UK pays child benefit and old age pensions and disability benefits etc. etc. Canada has two years’ maternity leave. Europe gets 4 – 8 weeks vacation per year.

      Social services in Cayman need attention.

      • Anonymous says:

        06 @ 4:12 Pm – eh… Canada has income tax (very high), so do UK and most European countries. Cayman has only “struggle to survive” taxes.

        • Anonymous says:

          Tax the rich then.

          • Anonymous says:

            That works so well elsewhere. Hint – tax the rich, and they hire clever advisors to minimize their taxes or they move jurisdictions. Most major economies with a tax base make the vast may of their tax revenue off the working and middle classes, and taxes on transactions which are harder to evade ( and of course fall disproportionately on the working and middle classes). Who are all these people you are going to tax in Cayman? The billionaires will simply leave, ringing more duty out of retail at the current cost of living has a finite limit, and we have a working population of what, 35000 people? You wouldn’t make enough to pay for the costs of running the tax service.

    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman’s churches, corporate vultures, along with homegrown industrial barons, aren’t interested in contributing a proportionate amount of their receipts back into community enrichment, ESG, or Corporate Social Responsibility good practice. So we, via the CIG, are put in the unfortunate position of subsiding the reprehensible avarice-gap in our domestic corporate/charity culture. It’s appalling. Cayman companies and partnerships should be required to contribute a minimum of 2% of net profits to the local community, just as a part of normal citizenry, or forfeit their T&BL. All registered Churches should have to publish their full accounting, including government subsidies, in kind transfers, and other sustaining capital inputs, and report those against community enhancements, and contributions, or loose their status. Fighting gays shouldn’t be all they do. If the cultural landscape worked properly, the NAU would be entirely privately funded, with reserve funds for parks and public works.

      • Anonymous says:

        Idiotic comment. You think the churches don’t give back to the community? You are clueless. They are also more efficient at distribution than CIG.

  27. Anonymous says:

    If anyone can do it- he can! So glad this is finally getting the attention it needs.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, go Andre!

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree!! So proud of Andre for following through with what he talked about on the campaign trail. NAU is close to his heart. It is so inspiring to see politicians taking time for our most vulnerable and defeated. Andre is def taking some serious hits from these lazy, loser, no good trolls on here. However, those of us that actually contribute to society recognise a decent man when we see one. Andre is one of the good ones. He reminds me of Sir Vassel 🙂

  28. Anonymous says:

    anybody receiving money from cig should be means tested. end of story.

    • I don't disagree says:

      How do you test means when there is no data on wealth or income available?

    • Anonymous says:

      They are.

      • Anonymous says:

        They are absolutely not. Hundreds of fully employed “displaced tourism workers” for example are receiving ex gratis payments without regard to need. Same for seafarers, and their widows. Millions are literally given to those with no need, every month.

    • Anonymous says:

      Andre is a decent man, however his team mates are not so principled.
      This means that the usual suspects will ensure their voter base is well fed by NAU to secure their re election.
      Making people who are used to hand outs, to actually work for a living is bad politics, and this I fear is increasing the pool of economic immigrant gimme gimmes whose children will expect the same.
      Thanks Mac and Kenneth.

    • Jefferson says:

      And drug tested. The only unemployed chose to be that way.

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