Financial Assistance Reform Recommendations

February 15, 2019 | 11 Comments

Speaking in the House of Assembly today [Feb 15], Minister of Health Kim Wilson provided an update on the financial assistance programme, and the Ministry has also released the recommendations from the Financial Assistance Reform Group.

Noting that it is the Government’s intent to reform the programme, Minister Wilson said the work started last year with the establishment of the Financial Assistance Reform Group, which has produced a set of recommendations.

30 recommendations from the Financial Assistance Reform Group:

Financial Assistance Reform Group 30 Recommendations Bermuda Feb 15 2019

“When the Department of Financial Assistance was moved to the Ministry of Health, we reviewed the recommendations and Cabinet has accepted a number of them, which will pave the way to reform the programme,” the Minister said.

Saying she has “found that there are many misconceptions about the programme,” the Minister said that ”most Financial Assistance recipients are seniors, disabled persons and child day care recipients. Only 26% are able-bodied adults.”

“In fact, as at January 2019, there were 3,268 recipients in total, as follows:

  • 1,184 Pensioners/Seniors
  • 896 Persons with disabilities
  • 214 Abled-bodies unemployed
  • 362 Persons with low earnings
  • 612 Child day care allowance

“Financial Assistance programme is vital to our community. It is the only form of welfare available to assist the vulnerable, frail and infirm, and the only means to prevent families from descending into poverty,” Minister Wilson said.

“However, funds are finite and we have to make sure that we use them efficiently and they reach the right people. We expect that the reforms under way will change the face of the programme to achieve financial sustainability and a more equitable allocation of awards.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr Speaker, I rise today to provide this Honourable House with an update on my Ministry’s intentions regarding the financial assistance programme.

As you know, it is the Government’s intent to reform the programme, and this initiative was included in this year’s Throne Speech. However, the work was begun last year with the establishment of the Financial Assistance Reform Group.

Mr Speaker, The Reform Group worked diligently and produced a final set of recommendations detailed in their Financial Assistance Reform Group Recommendations Report.

When the Department of Financial Assistance was moved to the Ministry of Health, we reviewed the recommendations and Cabinet has accepted a number of them, which will pave the way to reform the programme.

The Report has been published on our website, along with details of the recommendations that will drive our reforms.

But first, Mr Speaker, I want to set the context about the Financial Assistance programme, as I have found that there are many misconceptions about the programme and the population it serves.

To begin, I think the public would like to understand that most Financial Assistance recipients are seniors, disabled persons and child day care recipients. Only 26% are able-bodied adults.

In fact, as at January 2019, there were 3,268 recipients in total, as follows:

  • 1,184 Pensioners/Seniors
  • 896 Persons with disabilities
  • 214 Abled-bodies unemployed
  • 362 Persons with low earnings
  • 612 Child day care allowance

Financial Assistance is committed to making work pay and its award structure provides a foundation for this, as persons do not lose all benefits if they find some employment. More work is being done to advance this policy to help get more people back to work.

Mr Speaker, When the Reform Group was first established, its intended purpose was to reduce abuse, discourage dependency and ensure that work pays. These are important goals, however, in light of the profile of the persons in need of such assistance, and the type of supports granted, it has become clear that the focus of reform should be on making the programme financially sustainable, improving efficiency and ensuring a more equitable allocation of awards.

Our decisions have been guided by the Internal Audit report completed subsequent to the Reform Group’s conclusion. There were a number of overlaps between the two, but together, and in light of the appointment of a new Director of Financial Assistance, we have been able to have a more focused and targeted approach to achieve the most impactful reforms.

To begin, Mr Speaker, the Internal Audit report recommendations are being acted on immediately to bring urgent essential improvements as soon as possible over the next 12 to 18 months. These have already begun and will reduce waste, control budgets and improve service to recipients and applicants. For example:

A working committee has been set up to improve the current database system and use technology to improve efficiency in the future.

Customer service training is being sourced to commence before summer. We want all of our workers to have a courteous, sensitive and professional approach towards our clients and their needs.

A new intake process is being implemented. The department has reviewed their ‘pre-screening’ process and the new system should reduce the time that clients will have to sit for their initial interview. Further, a 30 day window has been implemented so that clients will receive a response in a timely manner.

Job Search sheets have been replaced with mandatory usage of the Bermuda Job Board. Clients are expected to visit the Department of Workforce Development, meet with a Career Development Officer, have their resumes updated, participate in skills testing and search for employment opportunities on the Job Board. Evidence of this activity must be submitted to the Department of Financial Assistance to qualify for a financial award.

Mr Speaker, in addition to these operational improvements, we will be strategically focused on ensuring a more equitable allocation of awards and achieving financial sustainability of the programme. In this regard, a fundamental reform we will undertake is to change the formula that is used to determine eligibility and awards. Specifically, we will amend the legislated formula to establish awards so that eligibility is based on measures associated with the ‘low income threshold’ calculated by the Department of Statistics, rather than the current [allowable] Expenses – [qualifying] Income = [FA] Award.

Further, Mr Speaker, as Minister of Health, I want us to see changes that will discourage the purchase of non-nutritive food and beverages, as is currently done with tobacco and alcohol. And I would like to find ways for the Government to recover debt and/or off-set the cost of benefits through the property of deceased financial assistance recipients. Mr Speaker, as a country we can no longer afford for the state to subsidize persons’ inheritances, as currently happens.

Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, as you will know the Financial Assistance programme is vital to our community. It is the only form of welfare available to assist the vulnerable, frail and infirm, and the only means to prevent families from descending into poverty. However, funds are finite and we have to make sure that we use them efficiently and they reach the right people. We expect that the reforms under way will change the face of the programme to achieve financial sustainability and a more equitable allocation of awards.

Thank you, Mr Speaker

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Comments (11)

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  1. dawn DeRerd says:

    so there are 1,184 Pensioners/Seniors on FA and the Government wants to claim some of the proceeds of a house sale when they die to pay off the debt?
    See recommendation No. 10
    Talk about graveyard robbery!

    • PBanks says:

      10 seems insane. Wouldn’t that person already be subject to paying taxes on the property in question as it is? Why not just go full hog and seize the asset in its entirety at that rate?

  2. comfortably numb says:

    Anybody wishing to receive financial assistance should have to deposit their passport at the FA office to be returned only for essential overseas medical care or when the client comes off financial assistance. Too harsh? Simple solution – do not apply for FA.

    • somuchless says:

      Right. The plp won’t do that. Those same people are their travel buddies.

    • PBanks says:

      I get the sentiment but that’s probably violating some constitutional and or human rights I bet.

    • MB says:

      Typical ignorant comment by someone with no idea why FA exists. Let’s while you are at it ban them from having mobiles, eating out and getting hair done.
      Most these people are on FA because they cannot earn or do not have money for housing and food
      This is sad
      I can see Government are trying to fix things but the fact is FA is part of a country’s humanity to those who need help and there is not much we can do to get more off OTHER than increasing the population of wealthy expats via whatever it takes and grow our population
      When the plp finally realize that we may just have hope to not die a slow death as a nation

  3. ab says:

    I can see no one checks spelling errors and just put a .jpg out lmfao….amateurs

    All you gotta do in word is right click lmfaooooo

  4. Paul says:

    So if my doctor says I have a medical condition, I can get free food and meds ???? who monitors this ?

  5. MM says:

    This ministerial statement is so long, I will not remember a tenth of it if I was tested on it next week. Hopefully a simpler can be presented by the summer. If the economy is not growing financial assistance will not shrink, some folks are unemployable due to having a criminal record

  6. Tania says:

    why does most folks on FA have fancy cars and cell an IPhone? ?

  7. vida says:

    Can someone in Government tell me why are so many young people are on financial assistance, here and in England that are able to work, maybe if they check their records then some money can be saved, they are just
    using the system to their benefit.

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