Monthly stipends for elderly and disabled people, retired seamen and veterans will be increased dramatically over the next two years. The Cayman Islands government will also create a new “ex-gratia” payment to top up the pensions of long-serving retired civil servants who currently receive less each month than people on poor relief.
Government has announced plans to increase poor relief payments from $550 per month to $650 per month in January and then to $750 per month the following year.
The stipends for former seamen and war veterans, also currently $550, will increase by the same amounts during the same time frame.
In its current budget, from June 2016 to the end of 2017, government indicated it expected between 950 and 1,200 people to receive poor relief payments at a cost of just over $9 million.
A similar amount was budgeted for ex-gratia payments to 800 to 900 seamen, while $1.5 million was budgeted for 120 to 130 ex-servicemen.
Premier Alden McLaughlin, delivering his strategic policy statement highlighting government’s policy and spending priorities for the next two years, said the increased stipends fulfilled a campaign commitment to improve social service assistance. He said government was initially looking to make larger increases but had settled on the incremental raises outlines as “affordable and sustainable.”
“It is worthwhile noting that government also assists these individuals in many other ways – with medical costs, utilities and other benefits as well,” he said.
Mr. McLaughlin also indicated government would add another ex-gratia payment for civil service pensioners, some of whom received less in their pensions than was provided through poor relief. He said this would be a supplemental stipend for retired civil servants residing in Cayman with more than 10 years’ tenure.
“The aim is to ensure that they receive a combined sum (pension and ex-gratia payment) that is no less than [that] paid for ‘poor relief’ payments,” he added.
Mr. McLaughlin also revealed plans for a new Human Resources Department to ensure Caymanians are not disadvantaged in the workplace.
He said government would change immigration regulations to improve fairness in job advertising and extend the Ready2Work scheme to assist people who need extra help to be “work ready.” He said 64 of 89 people involved in the pilot program had obtained employment, and 25 were in ongoing training of some kind.