New financial assistance rules passed by MPs
A kinder model for the financial assistance safety net, entailing “less policing” and assistance getting people back to work, was passed by legislators.
The Financial Assistance Amendment Act was brought to the House of Assembly on Friday by Jason Hayward, the labour minister, covering the introduction of employment plans for the able-bodied unemployed.
The legislation calls for disabled people applying for assistance to include a medical opinion outlining their condition and, where applicable, their eventual ability to go back to work.
Jarion Richardson, the One Bermuda Alliance whip, said government aid was a “thorny topic”.
He warned there would still have to be some level of policing to guard against misuse.
But Mr Richardson queried the cost imposed on disabled people to obtain a medical opinion.
Susan Jackson of the OBA also voiced concern for people with disabilities.
“Getting this medical opinion is not an easy task,” she said, citing the cost of a doctor’s visit as several hundred dollars.
Ms Jackson asked for further detail on evaluating emotional and behavioural disabilities.
Tinée Furbert, the minister for social development, told the House it would “not be unusual” for a social service to ask someone for information to verify a disability.
Mr Hayward responded to questions on why able-bodied financial assistance recipients were given six months after qualifying for aid to come up with their personal employment plan.
He said people needed time to assess their personal situation after getting approved for the safety net.
Life skills programmes and other services could be provided.
Mr Hayward added that the 700-plus disabled people on benefits would already have had to undergo medical checks.
He assured MPs that site checks would continue to safeguard compliance with the rules.
Mr Hayward told the House that the Bill was expected to come into force once it received assent from the Governor, Rena Lalgie.