Living conditions soon assessed

Government is trying to get a grip on the living conditions in the Cayman Islands.

While roadside surveys can be made visually, 1,200 households will be asked to take part in a National Assessment of Living Conditions.

NALC meeting

Diane Montoya leans forward to make a point about the National Assessment of Living Conditions at Monday nights meeting. Part of the circle around her included (from left) North Side MLA Edna Moyle, Mr. Joey Ebanks, Ms Laura Young, Mr. Leonard Dilbert, Ms Sylvia Wilks and Mrs. Tammy Ebanks-Bishop. Photo: Carol Winker

The first district meeting to give details of the assessment was held Monday night at the Craddock Ebanks Civic Centre in North Side.

The meetings are to acquaint people with details of the survey and planned focus groups meant to assess a range of social and economic issues.

The household questionnaire, to be distributed in February, asks about expenditures such as food, health and housing and whether people are able to meet their basic expenses.

The information will be used to establish a base poverty line for social assistance and may help guide government policies and social programmes.

Mrs. Deanna Look Loy, director of Children and Family Services, said previous poverty lines have been set in the absence of any empirical evidence and decision makers used their gut feelings.

‘It is time to know the truth,’ Mrs. Look Loy said. ‘It may shock us. It may not be as bad as we think or it may be worse.’

The survey is more than a household questionnaire, Mrs. Diane Montoya, chief officer at the Ministry of Health and Human, said. It is also about hearing the voice of the people and getting them to participate.

This will be done through community meetings with six focus groups of 15 to 20 individuals in each. The groups include men, women, youth, elderly, unemployed and the physically challenged.

Mrs. Look Loy said facilitators should check which nights are popular in each district for public meetings so there would not be conflicts.

The two-pronged approach of questionnaires and focus groups means that information will be qualitative as well as quantitative, Mrs. Montoya said.

Eighteen people have been trained and selected as facilitators for the focus groups. Between 35 and 40 people will be trained to conduct the household surveys, along with the staff of the statistics office, Mrs. Montoya said.

The survey is intended to address more than economic needs.

Mr. Leonard Dilbert, who will work on development and planning of social programmes, said such programmes cannot address economic needs alone. Spiritual growth is important, he said. The survey will help reveal where people live in their hearts and minds.

Minister for Health and Human Services Anthony Eden said it will provide the first yardstick for future surveys.

North Side MLA Edna Moyle made suggestions about focus groups and advised care in selecting people who visit households for the survey.

Members of the household may not be comfortable answering questions from a stranger, she said.

‘You need at least one North Sider that North Siders can relate to,’ Mrs. Moyle said.

District residents were asked to assist by tagging along or distributing fliers and encouraging participation.

Similar meetings are scheduled in West Bay today and East End on Thursday. Bodden Town’s meeting was set for last night, with other areas to be announced.

The National Assessment of Living Conditions was introduced early last year and launched in October.