Cayman Islands Community Affairs Minister Mike Adam stunned the territory when he announced last year that nearly 8,000 people had received some type of financial assistance from government social services agencies in 2010.
According to government reports, that number had grown to nearly 9,000 people by the end of 2011.
The government’s Compendium of Statistics, released this month, has revealed that levels of assistance provided in nearly every social welfare category by the Cayman Islands Department of Children and Family Services increased between 2010 and 2011.
Records indicated that the total number of people assisted by the department in 2011 reached 8,989; compared with 7,859 in 2010 – a 14 per cent one-year increase. That includes social service cases that were “cleared up” by the end of the year, so the figure is not necessarily representative of everyone who is receiving government assistance.
Five years ago, the number of people receiving assistance from the Department of Children and Family Services totalled 5,760; meaning there has been a 56 per cent increase in the number of individuals receiving some form of public assistance during the last five years.
Perhaps of more concern is a sharp increase in those who remained “active clients” of the department by year’s end. In 2011, that figure was 4,343 people; in 2010 there were 2,648 active clients the department was assisting by year’s end. That’s a 64 per cent increase in a single year. According to government records, the number of poor relief vouchers and free school lunches provided by the public dole have not significantly increased year-to-year since 2008. Indigent medical care cases went up a fair amount in 2011; 306 people receiving subsidised health care as opposed to 217 in 2010.
However, services provided to families saw surprising and substantial increases between 2010 and 2011.
A total of 1,423 families received food voucher assistance in 2011, compared with 1,088 in 2010; a 31 per cent increase.
Rental assistance payments were given to 497 families, compared with 349 in 2010. Electricity and water bill payment assistance was provided to 609 families, compared with 341 that got help in 2010.
The number of families that received preschool fees and help with burial expenses also grew during 2011.
Cabinet Minister Adam has indicated that social troubles worsened during the prolonged economic downturn that began affecting Cayman in 2009. He said the Ministry of Community Affairs and Housing was working “to ensure that the vulnerable are eventually in the position to help themselves”.
According to government budget documents for the 2011/12 fiscal year that ended on 30 June, some $7 million was budgeted for various poor relief programmes, another $5.5 million set aside for ex-gratia benefit payments to seamen, $4.2 million for the administration of the community assistance programme and another $1.5 million for the care of elderly and indigent people.