The Hon. Zane De Silva JP, MP - Financial Assistance Reform Group
A.B. Place Media Room - Wednesday 15th November 2017 at 11:00 am
Good Morning and thank you for joining me.
From its inception, the purpose of the Financial Assistance Programme was (and is) to ensure that all Bermudians have the financial and social means to maximize their potential as viable members of our society.
The Department of Financial Assistance is the public authority which is responsible for assessing the financial needs of Bermudians who apply for financial assistance, and makes awards to eligible and qualified persons based on criteria as outlined in the financial assistance legislation.
In recent years, the Department has seen a sharp increase in the number and complexity of client case loads.
For example, the most recent statistics on financial assistance, show that the total number of persons in receipt of financial assistance (excluding the child day care allowance programme) was 2,560 in May 2017. By comparison, the total numbers of financial assistance clients was 1,332 in October 2011. The total number of persons receiving financial assistance has nearly doubled in the past 6 years.
The cost of administering the Financial Assistance Programme has also increased significantly over the years. The total monthly payout for financial assistance (excluding child day care allowance awards) rose from approximately $2.5M in October 2011 to just over $4.0M in October 2017.
The trends of increasing numbers of clients and high cost of financial assistance are not sustainable and must be reduced.
It was with this objective in mind that Government committed, in the September 2017 Speech from the Throne, to review the Financial Assistance Programme, and to reform the Programme to reduce possible abuse, reduce dependency, and assist those out of work – to get work.
I am pleased to announce the establishment of a Financial Assistance Reform Group, consisting of the following persons, some of whom are present here today:
Wayne Carey (Chairperson)
Senator Jason Hayward, JP
Tinee Furbert, MP
Michael Weeks, MP
Susan Jackson, MP
The purpose of the Financial Assistance Working Group is to review the Financial Assistance Programme and make recommendations for financial assistance reform.
In particular, the Financial Assistance Reform Group shall assess the effectiveness of the Financial Assistance Programme in achieving its objectives, with particular emphasis on areas where legislative and/or policy reform may be required to improve service delivery.
Bermuda has an ageing population, and the Financial Assistance Reform Group shall also assess the extent to which the ageing population could result in increasing numbers of seniors on financial assistance, and to make recommendations going forward. This aspect will, of course, require consultation with our colleagues at the Ministry of Health and others.
It will be important for the Financial Assistance Reform Group to make recommendations for legislative reform as early as possible to enable appropriate time for Cabinet to approve such reforms and time for legislative drafting.
The Financial Assistance Reform Group will be required to prepare a summary report of its conclusions and recommendations for submission to the Minister of Social Development and Sports as soon as possible.