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New body to cut financial assistance cost

The cost of financial assistance will be tackled by a new working group.

Zane DeSilva, Minister of Social Development and Sport, said yesterday that the current $1-million-per-week cost of the programme was unsustainable and “must be reduced”.

Mr DeSilva said the 12-stong group would “aggressively” look at reforming the programme.

He said: “When we're spending $1 million a week on financial assistance, we can't do it fast enough.”

The programme, excluding the child daycare allowance awards, cost Government more than $4 million last month.

Mr DeSilva said the new Financial Assistance Working Group would meet formally for the first time today.

He added: “We want to produce those recommendations for Cabinet as soon as we possibly can.”

The working group includes Dianna Taylor, former director of financial assistance, One Bermuda Alliance MP Susan Jackson, Progressive Labour Party MPs Tinee Furbert and Michael Weeks, and PLP senator Jason Hayward.

Wayne Carey, permanent secretary, will serve as chairman.

Mr DeSilva said the team had a “very good cross-section of people that I think will lend their views in a very positive way”.

The minister said the number of people on financial assistance has nearly doubled in the last six years.

He added: “The trends of increasing numbers of clients and high cost of financial assistance are not sustainable and must be reduced.

“Bermuda has an ageing population, and the Financial Assistance Reform Group shall also assess the extent to which the ageing population could result in increasing numbers of seniors on financial assistance, and to make recommendations going forward.”

Mr DeSilva said in September that Government along with corporate Bermuda would fund education upgrades to able-bodied unemployed persons in an effort to reintegrate them into the workforce.

Mr DeSilva said yesterday that discussions with representatives from the private sector had “been positive”.

He added: “As soon as I was appointed minister, I had those conversations.”

The minister said he and his permanent secretary planned to meet with many of the people on financial assistance “within the next couple of weeks”.

Mr DeSilva stood by comments made in September that there was a “culture of entitlement” among “too many” of those helped by financial assistance.

He added: “I can only draw on the experiences that I've had personally, and some of those experiences are from folks that express themselves in that manner.”

“We just can't be going that way.”

Zane DeSilva, Minister of Social Development and Sport (File photograph)

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Published November 15, 2017 at 12:36 pm (Updated November 16, 2017 at 7:16 am)

New body to cut financial assistance cost

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