Those struggling in the Cayman Islands to have any quality of life as bills rise alarmingly will soon get assistance from the Government.
The Government’s plan to overhaul services for the most vulnerable came with the introduction and publication of the Financial Assistance Bill, 2022 on Friday.
André Ebanks, Minister for Investment, Innovation and Social Development, said: “The landmark Financial Assistance Bill would replace the Poor Persons (Relief) Act with a modern legislative framework which will set the stage for more effective service, public finance accountability, and a bridge to self-sufficiency for able clients.
The Financial Assistance Bill, which still has to be passed in Parliament, defines:
· the functions of the Department (currently the Needs Assessment Unit) and its duties, a standard feature of legislation.
· Confirms who is eligible for Government’s financial assistance, namely, to Caymanians, spouses of a Caymanian or guardians of a Caymanian dependent, all of whom must be resident on island during the time of the application and at least eight of the twelve months preceding the application.
· Adopts a more holistic approach to individuals who are receiving Government’s financial assistance, including the introduction of conditions that will be attached, in particular for households with adult members who are able to work.
· Builds in necessary transparency and accountability for decisions, including dealing with grievances and a new appeals tribunal, as well as the protection of personal information.
The Bill enables Cabinet to create associated regulations for implementation of the legislation, after it is passed by Parliament, which include:
· The number of working days in which the Department will process complete applications;
· Exemptions for emergency circumstances;
· Consideration for transitional services (i.e. during the transitional period after employment has been obtained); and
· Specific provisions with respect to varying household sizes, as well as issues related to household composition, such as older persons living with their adult children; people with disabilities) to align with the Cayman Islands Older Persons Policy and Disability Policy.
The new name of the Needs Assessment Unit will be the Department of Financial Assistance.
Tamara Ebanks, Acting Chief Officer of the Ministry of Investment, Innovation and Social Development, said: “If passed by Parliament, the Financial Assistance Bill will repeal an essentially two page Act, originally enacted 1964, that was last updated 25 years ago. It is a concrete demonstration of the profound commitment of the Ministry of Investment, Innovation and Social Development to re-imagining social development in the Cayman Islands.
“People who are in a position to require Government’s financial assistance deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion. This is evident even in the title of the new legislation, which delivers a comprehensive replacement for the outdated and egregiously named Poor Persons (Relief) Act.
She added: “We need sweeping, wholescale changes to modernise Government’s involvement with social development in the Cayman Islands, and the Ministry will continue to pursue reforms to deliver those changes for the benefit of our people.”