Decade-old disabilities study still not public

Premier promises new Sunrise Centre by 2021

Art instructor Twila Rodgers and client Eric Trumbach, left, along with Faith Brandt and her caregiver, Sonia Allen, draw pictures last September in the Sunrise Centre’s art room, which was converted from the garage in the decades-old duplex in West Bay. - Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Premier Alden McLaughlin said during his Strategic Policy Statement this month that a new Sunrise Adult Training Centre will be built by early 2021, but government still has not released a study commissioned nearly 10 years ago on the special-needs facilities.

The Cayman Compass requested a copy of the study last October, around the time when a reporter toured the Sunrise facilities – observing the daily challenges staff there have training students in a cramped, decades-old, four-bedroom residential duplex on a half-acre parcel of land in West Bay. Along with the outdated facilities, there is also a waiting list of at least 60 people who cannot be served because of the size of the centre.

Based on public statements made over the years about the study, Deloitte recommends the new centre be located somewhere between George Town and Prospect.

But government has declined to provide the Deloitte study to the Compass. Cetonya Cacho, the acting chief officer for the Ministry of Education, told the Compass that the study cannot be released because the new Sunrise Centre project is still under deliberation.

“I can confirm that the Deloitte study forms a part of the Outline Business Case for the new Sunrise Adult Training Facility, currently under deliberation by Caucus and Cabinet,” she wrote in a response to a records request. “As such, it may not be released at this time.”

Government officials have promised new facilities since Sunrise staffers were told in 2003 that the duplex would be a “temporary place” for them. Before then, Sunrise operated out of a tiny cottage in the parking lot of Sir John A. Cumber Primary School since 1986.

The Deloitte study was commissioned after then-Premier McKeeva Bush promised in 2009 to set aside money in government’s budget for Sunrise to get “a much-needed new permanent home”. Deloitte analysed the country’s disability provision in 2010 as part of the research into the possibility of building a new centre. At the time, funding was not available to implement the recommendations and the report was not released.

About four years later, the report’s findings were discussed in Finance Committee hearings. Premier McLaughlin announced in November 2014 that $8.5 million would be budgeted for the centre.

At the time, then-Sunrise director Shari Smith said construction on the purpose-built facility would begin in 2016 with an anticipated opening by 2018.

But more planning was apparently needed, and in May 2016 government announced that an outline business case – a study legally required for major capital projects – would be formed for the project.

In January 2017, government announced that it would move forward with the project through local development company Rider Levett Bucknall.

The company was to complete a business plan outlining the costs of creating a more central location, programme expansion and increased client enrolment, and then submit that plan within 90 days.

After that, no public announcements were made about the centre until earlier this month, when the premier briefly addressed the project in his Strategic Policy Statement.

“Plans are agreed for a new Sunrise Adult Training Facility, and that facility should be fully operational by early 2021,” McLaughlin said in the Legislative Assembly. “It will include better and more modern equipment, and significantly enhance the opportunities available for learning and personal development for the some 150 adults to which the facility will cater.”

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