Minister: Hundreds on assistance waiting list

Osbourne Bodden
Osbourne Bodden

About 340 applications seeking permanent financial assistance are pending assessment by the government’s needs assessment unit, Community Affairs Minister Osbourne Bodden said Wednesday.

Mr. Bodden said the applications are in addition to the 2,000 families already receiving temporary financial assistance and the 850 families on permanent government assistance.

The minister’s statements came in response to a parliamentary question by North Side MLA Ezzard Miller that sought information on when the backlog of applications would be cleared up.

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush asked whether the government had any statistics on how many of those families involved single-parent households.

Minister Bodden said that while he did not have exact figures on hand, he believes that is a significant part of the problem facing Cayman’s society.

“It’s a simple case of you have a family unit … one [adult] leaves … and once that other income is taken away, that person struggles,” he said. “It’s the reality of what we face. If we don’t break that cycle, we’re going to be here talking about this until the cows come home. I don’t know how we win this.

“If you’re making children out there, you have to do for those children, it’s as simple as that.”

Officials with the needs assessment unit noted in earlier Public Accounts Committee hearings that the current 24-member unit staff should probably be closer to 40. The short staff situation can often lead to delays, with people looking for assistance sometimes given appointments several months away, employees noted.

Last year, the Cayman Islands Auditor General reported there was a general lack of oversight and accountability for some $50 million spent each year on providing poor relief assistance.

The auditors report found that public assistance programs “are operating without objectives and there is no measurement of their performance.”

“Government has therefore failed to ensure that the programs are helping those in need and achieving results,” the report found.

There were also instances of “political influence” in the grant of aids, but the audit noted examples of those had declined in recent years.