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Financial assistance takes a new turn

Government 19 Oct, 2023 Follow News

Financial assistance takes a new turn

Investment, Innovation and Social Development Minister Andre Ebanks held a roundtable meeting for the press this week, introducing a complete overhaul of the way financial assistance will be delivered to those in need in the Cayman Islands. Financial assistance is currently given to around 1,500 Caymanian families, mostly to people over 65 who do not have enough savings to live on, the disabled, and also to families with someone working but who still could not make ends meet. A small percentage of people able to work are also given assistance.

Minister Ebanks said until last year the topic had not had any focus for six decades, so what they were attempting to do would not be easy, but it needed to happen.

“It needs to happen because there are two different perspectives,” he said. On the one hand, recipients complained that the current provider of financial assistance, the Needs Assessment Unit, did not want to assist them, and on the other hand, some people in the community saw people who had other resources were coming to the government first.

“We need to develop a system that is transparent, accountable and everybody can see and understand, from a technological standpoint, from a legal standpoint, from an HR standpoint, that it is absolutely crystal clear, rather than any Ministry or Minister having to adjudicate these matters personally,” Minister Ebanks said, adding that the path of tribunals should be a clear one as well.

The current system is not working well enough for anybody, he said, but what they were putting in place would be of a higher standard.

Parliament passed the Financial Assistance Act last year and since then the Ministry has restarted consultations on how the changes to financial assistance would be made. The press learned that now the Ministry is moving to the commencement of the legislation and the establishment of the Department of Financial Assistance (formerly the NAU). This legislation is known as the Financial Assistance Regulations, 2023 and the Financial Assistance (Appeals) Regulations, 2023, and which were approved by Cabinet on 10 October 2023.

Sweeping changes to how people will apply for and access their assistance will be brought in over the coming months, overseen by the Department of Financial Assistance. Recipients of financial assistance who can work will be referred for training. A DFA portal has been created to allow people to see their own information such as the services they receive. In addition, new premises on Grand Cayman and also on Cayman Brac will also house the new Department.

The legislation will replace the Poor Persons Relief Act and will commence mid-November.

Follow this story in the Caymanian Times next week, when we delve more deeply into these changes in how financial assistance is given.

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