‘Social Development’ Cabinet Committee Formed

May 17, 2019 | 4 Comments

Government has formed a Cabinet Committee on Social Development, Premier David Burt said, adding that in the Committee’s first meeting they “addressed matters around the living wage, the extension of paid maternity leave, revisions to the mandatory retirement age, the adoption of the charter of rights and responsibilities for seniors and the unified family court and mediation centre.”

Speaking in the House of Assembly today [May 17], the Premier said, “From that list of items Honourable Members will note the progress made: Public meetings on the living wage have now been completed and legislation will soon follow;

“The Ministry of Health is addressing the extension of paid maternity leave in a consultative process and the Seniors’ Charter is being modified for Bermuda and will shortly be provided for this Honourable House to take note;

“The revisions to the mandatory retirement age are now on the Order Paper for debate in this House; and the unified family court and mediation centre will be further updated in the coming months, with current efforts focused on structuring the mediation framework.”

Premier Burt added, “I wish to highlight one issue that was addressed by the Committee in that first meeting. Honourable Members will be aware of the reputational damage that can be done to young people whose youthful indiscretions land them before the courts and therefore in the media.

“The Committee considered the case of a young man, aged 17, whose involvement in a drug offence saw his name reported in print, and who, like so many young men over the years, faces the prospect of limited employment opportunities and restrictions on his travel, all for something he has done before even reaching the age of majority.

“To ensure that young men in particular are not so damaged before their lives have even started, I can advise this Honourable House that the Ministry of Legal Affairs is working on a policy that will prevent the publication of the names of minors in the media when they appear in the criminal courts, certainly before sentence and in only limited circumstances after sentencing. ”

The Premier also added that they devoted one meeting to determining strategies around providing services required to assist those students in our education system who are not well suited to the classroom setting and whose behavior prevents teaching and learning for them and their fellow students,  addressed the issue of affordable housing and more.

“While we grow and diversify this economy, we must devote equal attention to lifting people up; strengthening our communities and tackling the social issues that can prevent Bermudians from benefitting from the economic success we are determined to achieve,” Premier Burt said.

The Premier’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, Bermuda’s ‘cabinet-style’ government allows for the establishment of Cabinet Committees.

A Cabinet Committee is designed to provide a greater focus on specific issues separate, and apart from the more general agenda of the full Cabinet. Successive governments have established committees to deal with issues of economic development, cybersecurity, hotel development and more recently, matters surrounding anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to advise this Honourable House and the public that this Government has formed a Cabinet Committee on Social Development.

Mr. Speaker, in our 2017 General Election Platform, the Progressive Labour Party set out an agenda that, at its core, promised to provide leadership on the social issues that demand attention in Bermuda. We promised:

To Introduce Equality Impact Assessments as a component of [the ] legislative and policy development process to ensure that current and future laws or policies do not expand or encourage discrimination;

To reduce the need for long-term social assistance by focusing on prevention, and empower people by investing resources as early as possible at critical stages of individuals’ lives;

To implement performance benchmarks and accountability measures to ensure that the government’s programmes and policies are responsive to the needs of our community and evaluate the effectiveness of social investment strategies using performance data; and

To evaluate approaches to best support family-first policies for families with children in lower income households to break the cycle of poverty.

Mr. Speaker, by any measurement that is an ambitious agenda which will take time to accomplish. However, I am pleased to advise this Honourable House and the public that the work has long started and is ongoing. The lens through which we view all of our policy and legislative implementation is one that magnifies the social impact as a priority.

Mr. Speaker, the Committee’s first meeting was in February and an equally ambitious set of issues was tackled. In keeping with our Throne Speech promises, the Committee addressed matters around the living wage, the extension of paid maternity leave, revisions to the mandatory retirement age, the adoption of the charter of rights and responsibilities for seniors and the unified family court and mediation centre.

Mr. Speaker, from that list of items Honourable Members will note the progress made:

Public meetings on the living wage have now been completed and legislation will soon follow;

The Ministry of Health is addressing the extension of paid maternity leave in a consultative process and the Seniors’ Charter is being modified for Bermuda and will shortly be provided for this Honourable House to take note;

The revisions to the mandatory retirement age are now on the Order Paper for debate in this House; and

The unified family court and mediation centre will be further updated in the coming months, with current efforts focused on structuring the mediation framework.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to highlight one issue that was addressed by the Committee in that first meeting. Honourable Members will be aware of the reputational damage that can be done to young people whose youthful indiscretions land them before the courts and therefore in the media. The Committee considered the case of a young man, aged 17, whose involvement in a drug offence saw his name reported in print, and who, like so many young men over the years, faces the prospect of limited employment opportunities and restrictions on his travel, all for something he has done before even reaching the age of majority.

Mr. Speaker, to ensure that young men in particular are not so damaged before their lives have even started, I can advise this Honourable House that the Ministry of Legal Affairs is working on a policy that will prevent the publication of the names of minors in the media when they appear in the criminal courts, certainly before sentence and in only limited circumstances after sentencing. Mr. Speaker, our young people cannot be condemned so early in life; we must give them every chance to succeed and move beyond the early mistakes they make.

Mr. Speaker, since that initial meeting the Committee has twice convened and devoted one meeting to determining strategies around providing services required to assist those students in our education system who are not well suited to the classroom setting and whose behavior prevents teaching and learning for them and their fellow students. Mr. Speaker, we have identified the resource needs and the requirement for better information sharing between those departments that touch the affected children. Cabinet will shortly consider a Paper to address this critical area that impacts the safety and educational well-being of staff and students.

Mr. Speaker, the Committee most recently met last month and addressed the issue of affordable housing.

Mr. Speaker, the Ministry of Public Works identified early the need for more accurate data around housing issues. The recently completed housing survey which ended in April will provide a clearer picture of housing issues and better inform how we tackle this problem on behalf of the people of Bermuda. The Minister has informed me that almost 1000 responses have been received.

Mr. Speaker, more than affordability in housing the Minister of Public Works is encouraging us to think in terms of adequacy of housing. This focus is important because some of the social issues we encounter are caused or exacerbated by inadequate housing which in some cases forces on families living arrangements that are not suitable and become conducive to anti-social behavior or even criminal conduct.

With this in mind, Mr. Speaker, affordable and adequate housing is a priority of this Government and after a period of 10 years in which there has been no construction of units for addition to the Bermuda Housing Corporation stock, we will rollout projects that meet the demand identified by the community and informed by the housing survey to which I referred earlier.

Mr. Speaker, no discussion on housing can be complete without some reference to homelessness. Honourable Members will have heard the comments of the Honourable Member for Constituency 16 last week in this House which shone a light on the issue of homelessness.

Mr. Speaker, as Honourable Members will know, there are various permutations to the issue of homelessness and the condition of being on the streets is more often a symptom of wider issues that need to be addressed. It is important to note that the Bermuda Housing Corporation does not have a centrally located rooming house and discussions are underway to determine if the Bishop Spencer site lends itself to this purpose. The aim, Mr. Speaker, will be to provide more than just housing, but to also provide for functional skills training and work opportunities that will assist in returning our fellow citizens to the dignity of work and quality of life.

Concurrently, Mr. Speaker, I have asked the technical officers of the Cabinet Committee to separately identify a means to address the lack of aftercare provided to young people who ‘age out’ of the system of care. I have received heartfelt pleas from family members who simply cannot, in spite of their best efforts, provide the care needed for these, mostly young men. The result is that their conduct can land them on the streets and eventually in the courts, often leading to incarceration. Mr. Speaker, we must interrupt a system that criminalises the mentally challenged or those simply in need of alternative assistance in living.

Mr. Speaker, this overview represents just the highlights of the work of the Committee and the Government as whole in addressing head-on the social issues in this community.

Mr. Speaker, as we stated in 2018’s Throne Speech:

“While we grow and diversify this economy, we must devote equal attention to lifting people up; strengthening our communities and tackling the social issues that can prevent Bermudians from benefitting from the economic success we are determined to achieve.”

Mr. Speaker, this Government will use the considerable mandate received from the people of Bermuda to promote a system of greater fairness and equity, where the potential of Bermudians is limited only by their individual determination to succeed.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Comments (4)

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  1. aceboy says:

    Oooooo a committee.

    Awesome way to make it look like things are happening!

  2. Fan says:

    Anyone saw The Big Bang Theory finale?

  3. B4Premier says:

    “If Columbus had an advisory committee he would probably still be at the dock”
    - Arthur Goldberg

  4. Yes Eye says:

    We need more people to do thing,s and less committees and people that talk about what needs to be done and create reports.

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