More consultation planned on welfare reform

With the Public Accounts Committee poised to review an Auditor General’s report highlighting lack of action on welfare reform, officials have released details of plans for another round of consultation on the issue.

The Ministry of Community Affairs plans to speak with nonprofits and the public as it seeks to draw up new legislation and formulate a new plan for how public money is spent.

The review will look at financial assistance programs, including poor relief and rental assistance.

A comprehensive auditor’s report in 2015 found that Cayman’s various welfare programs had developed in an ad hoc manner over several decades, lacked an overall strategy, and in some cases lacked underpinning legislation. The report recommended government implement a proper, coordinated national strategy for spending on social assistance.

In November 2018, the auditor general’s office released another report concluding that government had made little progress toward rectifying the situation.

That report will be reviewed by the PAC on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

In its response to the auditor’s concerns, the ministry indicated it had formed a working group that was reviewing data, statistics and research, including an outline business case from 2017, with a view to formulating a social assistance strategy.

On Monday, the ministry announced plans for its next review phase.

Highlighting the appointments of new Chief Officer Teresa Echenique and Deputy Chief Officer Andre Ebanks within the last year, it said the ministry had been undergoing a thorough review of service provision.

Needs Assessment Unit director Tamara Hurlston, who chairs the working group, and director of the Department of Children and Family Services Paulinda Mendoza Williams are also involved in the review.

The group has consulted internally with relevant government ministries and agencies including Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman, the National Drug Council, the Family Resource Centre, the Sunrise Adult Training Centre, Her Majesty’s Cayman Islands Prison Service and the Department of Community Rehabilitation.

According to the press release, the feedback from these meetings will go toward creating a strategic plan.

“Previous research reports and the aforementioned initial consultations indicate that the types of services provided by the NAU are comparable to other jurisdictions and meet the needs of the public; however,… more improvement can be realized in the delivery of these services,” the release stated.

Chief Officer Ms. Echenique encouraged the public and charitable sector to get involved.

“The next round of consultations is a call-to-action to help shape future provision by private citizens and other external stakeholders including charities,” she said.

Email the Ministry of Community Affairs at [email protected] to contribute.

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