The government will be moving from its hybrid social assistance system to a central-standardised institutional system where the Social Development Department will be solely responsible for providing social assistance to residents.
The previous system saw the public assistance programme run by the Social Development Department alongside the House of Assembly assistance grants programme and the provision of ministry assistance grants.
However, under the new proposed systems, Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley said they will transition from elected representatives and Ministries having a hand in providing social assistance.
“While these arrangements were originally established to assist persons in need in our communities, the socio-economic challenges of the territory have grown beyond the ability of the current system to address. A different more effective approach is needed. One that is more structured, targeted and gets to the root cause of the problems that persons face so that long-term solutions can be found, especially those of a socio-economic nature,” Dr Wheatley said in a press statement yesterday.
“The Social Development Department will be the primary vehicle through which this happens, but with added capacity and resources,” the Premier said.
Dr Wheatley added that the transition is currently being initiated and it will be led by Minister for Social Development Marlon Penn who should be updating the public further in the coming weeks.
“The Government of National Unity will ensure that as this transition takes place, persons currently receiving critical social assistance will not be adversely affected by the changes being made. I also want to reassure you, and anyone who wishes to apply for social assistance in the future, that every effort will be made to maintain your confidentiality under the new system,” the Premier said.
“To be clear, we are transitioning away from your elected representatives and ministries providing social assistance to this function being done primarily by the Social Development Department. We will ensure that those in need, persons with disabilities, our golden gems, and others, will not suffer while the new system is being formulated and implemented,” Dr Wheatley added.
He said that in this new era of democratic governance, his government will try to renew the Virgin Islands
and transform it into one that delivers for all people. The Premier added that he is confident this can be accomplished together as a community.
“I do want to remind you that change will be hard. It will be painful. People we know and care about will be affected. However, in the end, it will be for the betterment of these Virgin Islands that we love so much,” Dr Wheatley said.
“While we carry out reform, the new Cabinet and junior ministers will continue working diligently to ensure the operations of government continue with respect to our schools, hospitals, clinics, and other important public services. I want to assure you that we are working in the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands
,” he added.