NAU gets new name and facelift under new Financial Assistance Bill Loop Cayman Islands

The content originally appeared on: Cayman Compass

The Government’s plan to overhaul services for the most vulnerable in the Cayman Islands has taken a leap forward with the introduction and publication of the Financial Assistance Bill, 2022 on August 12, 2022.

Features of the Bill

Based on a press release, some of the features of the Financial Assistance Bill include the following:

Defines the functions of the Department (currently the Needs Assessment Unit) and its duties, a standard feature of legislation.Confirms who is eligible for Government’s financial assistance, namely, to Caymanians, spouses of a Caymanian or guardians of a Caymanian dependent, all of whom must be resident on island during the time of the application and at least eight of the twelve months preceding the application.Adopts a more holistic approach to individuals who are receiving Government’s financial assistance, including the introduction of conditions that will be attached, in particular for households with adult members who are able to work.Builds in necessary transparency and accountability for decisions, including dealing with grievances and a new appeals tribunal, as well as the protection of personal information.

The Bill also enables Cabinet to create associated regulations for implementation of the legislation, after it is passed by Parliament. Among other criteria, these regulations are likely to cover:

The number of working days in which the Department will process complete applications;Exemptions for emergency circumstances;Consideration for transitional services (i.e. during the transitional period after employment has been obtained); andSpecific provisions with respect to varying household sizes, as well as issues related to household composition (such as older persons living with their adult children; people with disabilities) to align with the Cayman Islands Older Persons Policy and Disability Policy.

Commenting on the changes, the Minister for Investment, Innovation and Social Development, the Hon. Andr? Ebanks, said:

The landmark Financial Assistance Bill would replace the ‘Poor Persons (Relief) Act’ with a modern legislative framework which will set the stage for more effective service, public finance accountability, and a bridge to self-sufficiency for able clients.

Ms. Tamara Ebanks, Acting Chief Officer of the Ministry of Investment, Innovation and Social Development, echoed the Minister’s sentiments, and said:

If passed by Parliament, the Financial Assistance Bill will repeal an essentially two page Act, originally enacted 1964, that was last updated 25 years ago. It is a concrete demonstration of the profound commitment of the Ministry of Investment, Innovation and Social Development to re-imagining social development in the Cayman Islands.

Upon commencement of the legislation, the name of the Needs Assessment Unit will be the Department of Financial Assistance.

Tangible improvements

In concert with the Financial Assistance Bill, many transformative changes to Government’s financial assistance have been underway by the Ministry of Investment, Innovation and Social Development, and will continue.

The 2022-23 Annual Budget Statement provided for significant improvements to be made to the Department’s physical, client-facing space, as well as additional staff resources.

Several tangible improvements have been introduced in recent months to streamline processes for persons who are applying for financial assistance. In December 2021, the Needs Assessment Unit also launched an Online Application Portal which can be accessed through its website at Users with an active Digicel mobile number (SIM card) are able to access and utilise the NAU’s Online Application form, even if their account does not have credit.

In July 2022, the Needs Assessment Unit changed its renewal policy for older persons and persons with disabilities which are permanent in nature to be able to complete a “Continuation Certificate” if their circumstances have not changed. This policy change is intended to reduce the burden on people who need the financial assistance.

Stakeholder consultation

Acting Deputy Chief Officer Rayle Roberts remarked on the development of the bill, saying “Notably, the new legislation came to fruition through significant and extensive consultations undertaken by the Ministry with a wide array of community partners, including health practitioners, other professionals, NGOs, philanthropic and civic organisations. This dialogue revealed the significant extent to which all of these individuals and entities play a crucial role in understanding and overcoming the barriers to advancing social development in our community. We will continue to leverage this collaborative model going forward.”

Minister Ebanks remarked that the new legislation comprises one component of an overall reform agenda to transform social development, saying “We need sweeping, wholescale changes to modernise Government’s involvement with social development in the Cayman Islands, and the Ministry will continue to pursue reforms to deliver those changes for the benefit of our people.”

People who are in a position to require Government’s financial assistance deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion. This is evident even in the title of the new legislation, which delivers a comprehensive replacement for the outdated and egregiously named ‘Poor Persons (Relief) Act’.

Minister Ebanks added.

More about the Bill

The Bill has been published in the Gazette and is available here:

Public comment on the Financial Assistance Bill is invited directly via email: [email protected]

The Ministry of Investment, Innovation and Social Development will acknowledge receipt of your email. The deadline to respond is September 14, 2022

Responses will be treated confidentially but may be published on an anonymous basis (without identifying personal information). Responses may also be shared internally in the Ministry and with other relevant Government entities for purposes of policy development.

(Source: Ministry for Investment, Innovation and Social Development)