New welfare law will force people to work

CPC Chairman Roy McTaggart at Wednesday’s hearing

(CNS): A government policy maker has indicated that when the new law on financial support for those in need finally reaches parliament next year, it will include a mandatory requirement for able-bodied people to enter the labor market and find a job. At a Public Accounts Committee hearing last week, former and current CEOs and other staff responded to questions about the very long delays in responding to the Auditor General’s concerns about welfare policy and social security. recording of expenses. During the hearing, some details of the long-awaited future policy and legislation emerged.

Stacie Sybersma, senior policy adviser at the new Department of Social Development, told PAC that some of the improvements to the bill currently under consideration include a mandate that able-bodied clients work, as this is currently not a requirement.

“This leads to people who might be in the workforce not necessarily looking for a job,” she said.

Sybersma explained that the law would add more stringent parameters around the temporary relief of unemployment, whether for medical reasons “or in difficult times”, as well as to define who is permanently disabled and introduce more transparency on access to government aid to those who really need it.

Eric Bush, the Chief Social Development Officer, explained the need to measure the success of social assistance and for the government to better understand how much has been spent in the relevant areas of family support, protection of childhood and the elderly and what he achieved.

He said the ministry is not rewriting everything from scratch as a lot of work has been done in recent years in this area, albeit very slowly. However, a strategy is being developed to clearly define the government’s objectives in terms of social support and development.

“We are evaluating all the government services that are offered,” he said, adding that it was important to report on the expense aspect but also to introduce technology to make it more efficient. But the main responsibility of the ministry was not to lose sight of the main objectives, he said. “Are we doing well and striving to achieve our vision?” “

Bush was talking about the current situation and future plans to have legislation before Parliament in the first three months of next year, with the law promulgated, regulations completed, and policies followed by the summer.

But before that, PAC heard from Teresa Echenique, head of the Ministry of Community Affairs under the previous administration, who answered questions about why the ministry had not acted on the Auditor General’s recommendations for more than six years. .

The Office of the Auditor General has sounded the alarm bells since 2015 about the government’s failure to put in place appropriate policies, as well as defined criteria and targets for the money it gives to those in need. While the OAG was clear the government should help people, there have been huge issues with delivery, meaning the most vulnerable in the community don’t always get what they need.

In a review of welfare issues, the Auditor General published a report last month which revealed that in over six years, despite commitments to improve the situation, almost none of his office’s recommendations had been implemented and nothing had been done to improve the failing system .

Although at the head of the responsible ministry since September 2017, after his predecessor took early retirement, Echenique did not provide a definitive answer on the delays and failures in response to direct and pointed questions from PCB members, especially President Roy McTaggart and Kathy Ebanks-Wilks .

Offering reasons why the framework, strategy and legislation had not materialized during his tenure, Echenique blamed a range of issues, such as the pandemic and not “wanting to rush things” in such a sensitive area.

See PAC hearings on CIGTV (first video to start where McTaggart’s mic comes in):


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