Minister of Labour Jason Hayward announced today that the Government “is moving forward a comprehensive Financial Assistance Reform Strategy”, that “aims to chart a new course” for the assistance program in Bermuda.
Speaking at a news conference held today (Sept 24) he reaffirmed government’s commitment to improving Bermuda’s Financial Assistance system for people “who require financial support to meet their basic needs”.
“The Strategy aims to chart a new course for Financial Assistance by changing it into a streamlined and efficient system that emphasizes giving those previously unable the opportunity to fully participate in the local economy and realize their potential,” he said.
“The strategy has an even more ambitious goal of moving our able-bodied and able-disabled recipients into employment opportunities as soon as possible. This will help to avoid long-term dependency on the system. Furthermore, through active engagement in the workforce and participation in training and other support services, recipients will benefit greatly from a completely new and different approach.
“And so we will move from what we now know as Financial Assistance to a system that motivates and empowers individuals to improve their financial situation. The reformed system will focus less on policing and the administration of rules to helping more individuals access the services and support available to help them. This approach will not only meet their basic needs, but also allow them to achieve a greater sense of personal and financial success.”
He also stated that the reform plan would “result in a whole new experience for current and future financial aid recipients”.
“The experience will be focused more on providing the necessary guidance and support for persons to gain and maintain their financial independence.
“For this Government, the reformed FA system will be an investment in our people…and I am confident that the return on this investment will be tenfold.”
The Minister said the reform plan consists of four (4) overarching aims and strives to:
- 1. Increase sustainability of the Financial Assistance program;
- 2. Strengthen the education, training, and employment services for Financial assistance recipients;
- 3. Encourage individuals and families to become financially independent; and
- 4. Improve the program to better support persons with disabilities.
To accomplish this, the reformed Financial Assistance program will:
- Promote the financial stability of individuals and families by amending the asset and income criteria to allow those receiving financial aid to:
- Hold or receive gifts up to $2,500, and
- Hold savings or investments up to $5,000 in single adult households and $7,500 for households with two adults.
- Institute Personal Employment Plans and strengthen employment support services to ensure all financial aid recipients not only have a plan to get employed but are also provided the collaborative support needed to help them achieve financial independence.
- Amend the Childcare Support rules to allow FA recipients to retain 50% of child support received to help cover child-related expenses.
- Improve access to affordable and suitable housing by working closely with BHC and landlords of rent-controlled properties.
- Enhance the incentives to work program to help clients see a rise in their standard of living when they have a job or increase the number of hours they work.
- Improve outcomes by ensuring public-facing services are sufficiently resourced with the appropriate staffing, support and services, and an appropriate performance framework, complaints, and dispute process.
- Ensure that the level of employment services and support people receive will be proportional to their level of need so that people with disabilities and others who face multiple barriers to employment will not be left behind.
- Revise a cross-governmental approach to effective social services, so it is better able to assist people to obtain and keep good, sustainable work. These social services will focus on supporting vulnerable populations, allowing them to maintain or develop independence and receive the necessary assistance.
- Improve assistance for disabled people by ensuring access to the range of employment services available to those with disabilities as well as specialized disability-related support services.