Social services: Echoes from 43 years ago

Increasing demand for social services, proper priorities for government-funded welfare and fears about the effectiveness of programs to help those in need have been vexing successive Cayman Islands governments for generations.

The Cayman Islands Government Report for 1974 highlights those issues, as well as concerns over a duplication of effort between the private and public sector.

It states, “With the development of the islands has come a greater need in the field of social services because of the change in life patterns and the gradual loosening of family ties.”

Elderly people, formerly looked after by their families, are now neglected and in need of care, mothers leave their children with insufficient care while they work and juvenile delinquency rises, the report from 43 years ago warns.

At that time, a British government adviser had visited the island and recommended a new National Council of Social Service as the solution.

According to the report, the new council would be established to “coordinate the work of all voluntary agencies and Government to ensure the proper selection of priorities in social services and to avoid duplication in effort.”

More than four decades later and after exponential growth in Cayman’s population and economy, a new generation of politicians faces similar headaches and posits similar solutions.

A lack of coordination among social services is still considered to be a key issue, and government has commissioned new advisers to produce a blueprint for a national system of welfare programs.

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Premier Alden McLaughlin, speaking at a community meeting in the Scranton neighborhood in July, said, “There’s a huge range of programs that we have in place, some for many years that … at least in name, appear to be dealing with societal issues. The reality, I believe, is most of our programs are failing, are not at all fit for purpose and are not addressing the issues that we face.

“Every week … some person, some organization, some church, some school comes to government and says ‘we have a great idea, we just need government to fund it.’

“How successful [the programs] are is the question we have to answer,” the premier said.

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