MPs Approve New Financial Assistance Rules

June 29, 2013

Parliamentarians approved new legislation which will require recipients of Financial Assistance to attend life skills programmes if deemed necessary, as well as require able-bodied recipients who have not found employment after three months to complete up to 15 hours of community service weekly.

Community & Cultural Development Minister Wayne Scott presented the bill yesterday [June 28] in the House of Assembly, and OBA MPs voted in favour, while the PLP MPs and the one Independent voted against the bill.

Speaking before the vote, Minister Scott said the “stark reality” is that the number of persons applying for Financial Assistance has continued to increase over the past two fiscal years, and the total number of applicants is “at an all-time high,” with 498 persons applying  between January – March of 2013.

The Minister said the fourth quarter of 2012-13 was associated with the highest expenditure on record, with a combined expenditure for Financial Assistance and Child Day Care, of around $10.7 million.

“The intent of these changes is to offer more help in the first instance, and to foster more accountability and responsibility on the part of persons who receive Financial Assistance and Child Day Care allowance benefits,” said Minister Scott.

The bill was seeking three major changes:

  1. A requirement for recipients to attend specified life skills programmes such as money management courses or parenting skills courses as deemed necessary
  2. An ability for a Financial Assistance manager or caseworker to refer recipients for assessment for substance use or abuse if deemed necessary
  3. A requirement for able-bodied persons who have not found employment after three months to complete up to 15 hours of community service weekly.

MP debated the bill, and there did not appear to be much dissension on the section requiring able bodied people to do community service, however Opposition MPs spoke about what they saw as flaws in other sections of the bill relating to the day care allowance.

PLP MP Derrick Burgess said the concept behind the day care allowance was to assist children, saying “we want no excuses for children be able to get an education.”

Opposition Leader Marc Bean said that with more conditions being attached, it is more state intervention. “The state has to have boundaries on how they interfere with citizens everyday lives,” said Mr Bean.  ”Because once you take once inch, the room or the doors open to take a mile. And that is the slippery slope towards socialism.”

PLP MP Wayne Furbert it will “affect predominately black families, and we are sending a message today, the Honourable member Michael Dunkley doesn’t understand that, and what it mean to be without, he doesn’t understand that.” A voice could be heard in the background from the Government side saying “Don’t go personal mate…”

“The two people making the most noise around here are the Honourable Grant Gibbons and Michael Dunkley,” said Mr Furbert.  ”Those are the two that are making the most noise. I am saying it affects predominantly the black community.”

There was some back and forth, and at one point, Mr Furbert said, “Michael, go drink some milk.”

Some Opposition MPs questioned who will make the determination of what good parenting is, and what standard will be used.

“The cultures are different,” said Mr Furbert. He said some communities when children misbehave they are told to sit in the corner, and others are “slapped upside the head.”

Opposition Leader Marc Bean asked who will determine the parenting value system, while Mr Furbert said, ”So whose culture will we measure this by…what criteria will the caseworkers measure by?”

Mr Bean asked for a bipartisan approach, with the two parties getting together to work out a solution that is “beneficial to everyone,” however the bill passed by a vote of 17-13.

Minister Scott’s full Ministerial statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, I rise to inform this Honourable House about several initiatives that the Ministry of Community and Cultural Development intends to undertake in order to help move Bermuda along the road to social recovery.

Mr. Speaker, before I describe these initiatives, it is important to give Honourable members a perspective of the social need that our Ministry is faced with.

Mr. Speaker, the stark reality is that the number of persons applying for financial assistance has continued to increase over the past two fiscal years. The number of able-bodied unemployed applicants rose from eighty-six (86) in the first quarter of 2011-12 to one hundred and thirty-two (132) in the fourth quarter of the same year. During the same period, the number of earnings low applicants increased from seventy (70) to one hundred and twenty-eight (128).

Mr. Speaker, by comparison, the number of able-bodied applicants in the first quarter of 2012-13 was one hundred and fifteen (115) and jumped to one hundred and ninety-five (195) in the fourth quarter of 2012-13; during the same time period the number of earnings low applicants for Financial Assistance rose from one hundred and eighteen (118) to one hundred and thirty-six (136). This is an unsustainable trajectory.

Mr. Speaker, overall, what this means is that the total number of applicants to the Department of Financial Assistance, including seniors and persons with disabilities, is at an all-time high, with four hundred and ninety-eight (498) persons applying for assistance between January to March of 2013.

Mr. Speaker, the increase in applicants has also caused the average caseload per worker to exceed two hundred (200) for the first time, reaching two hundred and fifteen (215) persons per worker (for both Financial Assistance and Child Day Care clients) in the fourth quarter of 2012-13. This has placed a huge demand on the staff of the department of financial assistance.

Mr. Speaker, from an expenditure point of view, the fourth quarter of 2012-13 was associated with the highest expenditure on record, with a combined expenditure, for Financial Assistance and Child Day Care allowance clients, of just over ten million seven hundred and fifty-four thousand dollars ($10,754,000).

Mr. Speaker, these figures underscore a disturbing and unsustainable trend of social need in our community. What is required is not only an economic recovery and jobs, but a movement towards a social recovery.

Mr. Speaker, our Ministry is committed to leading the social recovery movement, and in this regard, last week I tabled in this Honourable House two bills that are designed to bring changes to the Financial Assistance and Child Day Care allowance legislation.

Mr. Speaker, the intent of these changes is to offer more help in the first instance, and to foster more accountability and responsibility on the part of persons who receive Financial Assistance and Child Day Care allowance benefits.

Accordingly, we are seeking three key Amendments to the Financial Assistance Legislation:

1) A requirement for recipients of Financial Assistance to attend specified life skills programmes such as money management courses or parenting skills courses; Mr. Speaker, I will also point out that the face of the unemployed has changed due to the economic situation and everyone will not need the same type of help, and we will be relying on the expertise of the Department staff to assess each individual accordingly.

2) An ability for a Financial Assistance manager or caseworker to refer recipients of financial assistance to the Bermuda Assessment and Referral Centre for assessment for substance use or abuse if deemed necessary; and

3) A requirement for able-bodied persons who have not found employment after three months of receiving financial assistance to complete up to fifteen hours of community service weekly.

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that community service is not employment. However, there can be many positive aspects associated with engaging able-bodied, unemployed financial assistance clients in community service, including:

  • A) Maintenance of a sense of self-worth while unemployed;
  • B) Contribution to society in return for receiving funds from the public purse;
  • C) Expansion of networking opportunities and the prospects of finding employment; and
  • D) Direct exposure to job offers that clients may not otherwise be exposed to.

Mr. Speaker, similarly, we are proposing to empower the Director of Financial Assistance, based on a report from a Financial Assistance manager or case worker, to require a Child Day Care Allowance recipient to attend parenting classes offered under the child development programme of the Ministry of Education.

Mr. Speaker, you might ask how we are going to spearhead a social recovery. My ministry is addressing this with initiatives like ‘Community Driven Development’, under which a collaborative project will soon be launched by the Department of Human Affairs, the Bermuda Women’s Council, and the Department of Financial Assistance.

Mr. Speaker, community driven development is an exciting new concept that involves partnering with community organizations to increase skill levels, abilities and competencies of citizens.

Mr. Speaker, an initial project will focus on working with a group of women who are unemployed or underemployed, and developing their potential to become self-sufficient and eventually off financial assistance. The intention is to establish a day care facility where this same group of women would be instrumental in helping to undertake some of the work required to establish and operate the facility, and where they can enroll their own children. The women will undertake training that will enable them to work in the various aspects of the day care facility including child day care, administration, bookkeeping, maintenance, food preparation and gardening.

Mr. Speaker, while this example of a community driven development project was born out of the Bermuda Women’s Council, similar opportunities are likewise needed for our men, and these will be addressed.

Mr. Speaker, the proposed day care facility will be run by fully trained and qualified professionals and the intention is that it will be a training facility for persons wishing to get involved in every aspect of running a day care facility. A potential location for the day care facility has been identified and the curriculum is under development.

Mr. Speaker, in order to ensure the success of this initiative, other internal and external stakeholders are being consulted, including the department of child and family services, the community education and development project, the Bermuda Housing Corporation, the Business and Professional Women’s association, the Centre Against Abuse, the Women’s Resource Centre, and the Department of Workforce Development.

Mr. Speaker, it is imperative that we begin the process of social recovery by empowering people to be more accountable and responsible for their condition. The legislative changes that I have commented on, and the community driven development project which I have mentioned, are all examples of how the ministry of community and cultural development can play an important role in the social recovery process.

Today, Mr. Speaker, I put the stake in the ground for the necessity of a social recovery in Bermuda, and this is just the beginning.

Thank you Mr. Speaker!

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  1. Lister On Child Day Care Allowance Changes | Bernews.com | July 1, 2013
  1. Its gonna be some hell around here real soon, mark my words!!!!!

    • @ reality kills, and why would you think that, i see no problem with asking someone to do 15 hrs of community service for the money they receive from the taxpayers, it might help them to become taxpayers again and give them something to be proud of in helping say, the old folks etc.

  2. d.o. says:

    especially when flip flop Burgess wants to bring up the race card. just for his enlightenment there are white families ( pink, green and blue it does not matter the color ) in the same situation thanks to his parties financial wisdom and a certain ex leaders wish to make the country pay dearly for their transgressions. Don’t try to rationalize Burgess you can hardly think straight. This is your 3rd attempt to cast blame on the govt and your 3rd failure.

  3. Finally says:

    I have been saying this for years. If you take you must give. Community service is a MUST if you are going to take from government.

  4. Put them to work, yea who's going to police this says:

    I heard about this woman who just started receiving a check and has been away already 3 times in the last few months.

    What the hell OBA think outside the BOX. They should be required to surrender their travel documents is that not easy to do!!!!!!!

    The Community & Cultural Development Minister Wayne Scott all he has to do is make it policy going forward. No 2 week wait or debate in the Upper House. Then again he is the weakest Minister they have on the team, thus why they gave him this position. If anyone needs a consultant he needs one asap.

    • Missy says:

      AGREED!I also have a friend on Financial Assistance who travells very frequently. More than myself, must I add, and I hold full time employment. And she also bought a new CAR! But our Government pays her rent, light bill and grocery bill for her and her kids. Something isnt adding up….You do the math!

      There needs to be a bit more restrictions, than merely performing community service..

    • Tricks are For Kids says:

      I find that hard to believe as that part (travel whilst receiving assistance) has been tightened up a long time ago…..If that is the case someone is sleeping on the job….

      • Tina says:

        Why do you find it hard to believe when everyone on financial assistance still has their passport? Why do they need their passports if one of the conditions is that you can’t travel when getting a free check every month? Where can I sign up to get my free check? It’s always ways to beat the system.

        I agree make them surrender their passports that’s the only way to be sure they live up to the conditions place on them.

  5. Alvin Williams says:

    If you are going to demand community service for social assistence you might as well bring back the hussle truck; at least than you might have a messure of dignity. ‘LET THEM EAT CAKE’ whither the unemployed; those in financial need in this country; for those on high consider that there is no excuse for you are living in one of the richest countries in the world?

    • Truth (Original) says:

      Mr. Williams, why is working on the hustle truck more dignified than serving those in need in our community? It is a total of 15 hours a week or 2 hours a day for 5 days a week.

      Sounds perfectly reasonable to me and anyone receiving aid from the taxes of the community shouldn’t have an issue serving the community.

    • Sandy Bottom says:

      What is wrong with community service Alvin? And why do you assume there is no dignity in community service? Some people make their careers serving the community. A lot of people do it for free already. Yet you complain about it.

    • Clinton J.A. Paynter says:

      Bring back the Hustle Truck? It never went anywhere…

  6. Devils Advocate says:

    I think this should be extended to MP’s and senators for the financial assistance received from tax payers.

  7. Devils Advocate says:

    This can be looked at as a litmus test for the reintroduction of feudalism (socialism modern term) because you are not employed (somewhat free man) you are property of your lord GOV and must work in whatever way they see fit. This is indeed a slippery slope.

    • Sandy Bottom says:

      Give us a frikkin break. Asking someone to work two hours a day, for the community. Get a freakin grip.

  8. Confused says:

    May I just say that the requirement for people to attend a class in my opinion in wrong. Not everyone who needs financial assistance needs parenting classed (what if they are not of child bearing age?) or Money Management classes… (Its not their fault that they cant find work. Instead of attending a class perhaps:

    a requirement should be to prove that they are actively looking for work and attending interviews.

    Just my opinion.

  9. God 1st says:

    @ Alvin williams

    Well spoken

  10. Kim Smith says:

    Bravo! Finally, moves towards a hand up… not a hand out!

  11. Um Um Like says:

    Recipients should also undergo random drug and alcohol tests.

    • John says:

      They’ll never do this most of the recipients will fail you stupid prick. The majority of Bermudians on Financial Asst are black. The oba and plp relied on the black votes to win the election, whites don’t count. Sad yes, but true since we are not the majority.

      History shows that the majority white Bermudians only vote ONE WAY ubp and now oba. If the oba gov has the balls to pass this they will upset their support tree. It may not be right, but it’s about (politricks) and staying in power.

      • Um Um Like says:

        Most recipients would fail? Precisely, john, “you stupid prick”! If you have no problems paying for other people’s drug habits then go for it, but I’d rather not contribute to such cause.

        Why do you bring black & white into this? F***** racist c****!

        • hmm says:

          @Um Um like.

          The OBA will never pass this, John is so right.

  12. Navin Johnson says:

    I believe there will be drug testing…..

  13. god1st says:

    @Truth (Original)

    The government is looking for black slaves .

    • Sandy Bottom says:

      Absolute bollocks. If you don’t want to do community service, don’t take the handout. Go f*** yourself. Racist.

    • Sad says:

      Slaves don’t get paid ya dummy

      • Sad's mother says:

        Slaves get paid @ rock bottom wages. Just go ask all the work permit slaves who perform landscaping and restaurant worker in kitchens around Bermuda. Go to … tonight at 12. They got 2 Bermudians and the rest are salves from way out yonder. No Bermudian wants to get paid a slaves wage.

        • Bermuda Male says:

          Buy slaves did not have a choice regarding their situation as they were forced against their will into certain jobs.

    • Rick Rock says:

      Are you saying the lazy gits want handouts for no work?

  14. god1st says:

    This speech was said to have been delivered by Willie Lynch on the bank of the James River in the colony of Virginia in 1712. Lynch was a British slave owner in the West Indies. He was invited to the colony of Virginia in 1712 to teach his methods to slave owners there.

    [Edit: Link to full speech here]

    • Rick Rock says:

      So don’t accept handouts. You boast about how set up your own business. Do that.

  15. God 1st says:

    @ sad some slaves of Rome received money from their masters as rewards or during some religious festivals and were able to earn money, (some slaves eventually owned their own slaves), having made money they could buy their own freedom, if they had the money this right couldn’t legally be refused.

    • Sad says:

      You do realise the Opposition actually agreed with this part of the amendment right?

      • Sad says:

        And change your name as it is blasphemous. God does not endorse the hate that you spew everyday. You are not a godly or tolerant being. So change your name and spew your vitriol under a more appropriate handle.

    • Rick Rock says:

      So what? No one here is a slave. If you don’t want to work, don’t bother. Stay in bed all day. Go hang out on a wall. But don’t expect to get anything. It’s actually the way most of us live, working to earn enough to live on. But if you don’t feel like doing that, don’t. Just don’t complain when you don’t get government handouts.

    • jt says:

      oh brother

    • R@s cl@d says:

      If I stand close enough to you , I can hear the ocean.

  16. God 1st says:

    I am A GOD

    • Bermuda Male says:

      That’s exactly how the white racists thought/think about themselves.

      Apparently you guys have a lot in common.

  17. God 1st says:

    Well actually the 40 thieves stole to get were they are today.

  18. Second says:

    Wow we lose focus so easily! Keep up the good work OBA.

    • hmm says:

      The Oba hasn’t done anything accept take away term limits. Where are the 2000 jobs? White sheep will believe anything.

      • Sandy Bottom says:

        The PLP created the 5,000 une,ployed we currently have. And you think it can be turned around in a few months?

        • Old ways of UBP says:

          Like a white government can do better you dumb sheep.

          • Sandy Bottom says:

            Is that supposed to be an intelligent comment, or are you just a moron?

  19. canada lover says:

    If there is community service to be handed out by government then there has to be jobs out there. How can government send someone to work somewere when there is no work? Will oba magically fond jobs for those who take from them? Makes no scence to me give them jobs then they wont need assistance

    • Family Man says:

      You could volunteer as a reading mentor to kids. Oh, wait … never mind.

  20. Victor says:

    Judging from a few of the comments, ‘The World owes me a living’ crowd or at least a few of these sorts are threatening to stop having babies and riot for a bit if they actually have to do some small token modicum of labour for their tax payer funded hand out; so riot and the rest of us can at least then see what we are paying for.

  21. obervation onion says:

    the financial assistance program was not set up to to subsidize a life style but to help those who came upon hard times. Unfortunately there are people who feel its there rite to claim funds off the government. Financial assistance should be given with restrictions and time limits. There are those who are truly in need. and do not want to be on assistance. and then there are those who are milking the system for all they can. IE: Mother of 4+ doesn’t work. Nothing is physically wrong with her. (she got fired form her last job) has ALL her bills paid by government. rent..belco cellular phone!! all medical bills!! and check this.. her youngest is in nursery school… AND government pays that too…SMH… oh yea…. her family is well off. SHE CHOSES TO LIVE OFF THE GOVERNMENT.

  22. thisty says:

    “Mr. Speaker, from an expenditure point of view, the fourth quarter of 2012-13 was associated with the highest expenditure on record, with a combined expenditure, for Financial Assistance and Child Day Care allowance clients, of just over ten million seven hundred and fifty-four thousand dollars ($10,754,000).”

    $10,754,000 paid out between 498 clients in the 4th quarter of 2012-13?

    $10,754,000 / 498 = $21,594.38 Average expenditure per person for the 3 month period.

    21594.38 / 3 months = $7,198.13 per person per month

    I need to quit my job because financial assistance pays more than double what I make.

    • papasmurf says:

      So at 15 hours per week and 4 weeks per month ($7,198.13 / 4 = $1,799.53 per week / 15 = $119.97 per hour) I will gladly do 15 hours community service per week for that. I work more hours than that now making just about half.