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Financial assistance to fall by $1.5m

The cost of financial assistance is expected to drop by about $1.5 million in the next fiscal year.

The update came as the 2018-19 Budget earmarked $51.68 million for the programme, down from $53.55 million in 2017-18.

Financial assistance has been under review by a cost-saving working group since November 2017.

Delivering the Budget on Friday, David Burt, the Premier, said the effort would “reduce abuse, discourage dependency, and ensure that work pays”.

The Budget garnered high marks from Kelly Hunt, executive director of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, who said the charity “keenly” awaited the strategic plan to cut spending in financial assistance.

Ms Hunt said the need to support struggling families and vulnerable persons remained “paramount”.

She added: “As mentioned in the Budget, poverty is a reality. Many able-bodied people are finding it difficult to make ends meet. How we move from dependency to the effective support of self-sufficiency will be fundamental to Bermuda's overall development as a country.”

The charity praised the Budget's commitment to “economic empowerment, relief for vulnerable persons and a strengthened social safety net”.

Ms Hunt said the speech for the coming fiscal year echoed the Coalition's belief that “root-cause issues must be addressed as a primary concern and long-term investment”.

She added: “We await details surrounding preventive education programmes, early intervention and empowerment initiatives as they will be key to addressing many of our social ills.

“Unequal access to opportunity is a clear underlying theme recognised by the Government in this Budget, and we look forward to learning the specifics of how this will be addressed in order to strengthen the social fabric of Bermuda.”

Mr Burt told MPs last Friday that inequality was “systemic” in Bermuda and it was “the regrettable result of a system designed to preserve the economic power of the few”.

Ms Hunt said the Budget's commitment to maintenance of the island's schools, as well as boosts in funding for the Ministry of Social Development, Youth, Sport and Recreation, Child and Family Services and National Drug Control, were welcomed.

She said: “These are encouraging investments in the community and we look forward to supporting plans that help families heal, grow and thrive as a mandate for success.”

Cautious welcome: Kelly Hunt of the Coalition for the Protection of Children praised parts of the Budget (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published February 19, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated February 18, 2018 at 9:45 pm)

Financial assistance to fall by $1.5m

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