Information Officer II
Department of Information and Public Relations (GIS)
STATEMENT BY THE HONOURABLE VINCENT O. WHEATLEY
MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
AT THE SECOND SITTING OF THE FIRST SESSION OF THE FIFTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
THURSDAY, 29th JUNE 2023
Update on the Social Assistance Review Report
Madam Speaker, The Ministry of Health and Social Development recently made the Final Report of the Social Assistance in the British Virgin Islands Review public. We are also seeking the public’s input on the document.
The public has an opportunity to make comments, submissions and recommendations on the documents, which will help to shape the government’s decision on how to create a policy surrounding social assistance in the Virgin Islands.
The documents can be accessed at the Government of the Virgin Islands website at bvi.gov.vg. The public is also urged to submit their submissions to the Ministry of Health and Social Development via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through physical mail at Ministry of Health and Social Development, Vorinica’s House of Commerce, Long Bush, Tortola VG1110, British Virgin Islands.
Madam Speaker, the main objective of this report is to provide analytical and advisory support to the Government of the Virgin Islands for reforming its social assistance programming and disbursement of community development grants to individuals and Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs). The report is also aimed at increasing harmonization, coordination and transparency of the relevant policy and governance frameworks, and strengthening their effectiveness.
Madam Speaker, the urgency of the activities surrounding the review was prompted by the Government’s intention to review the existing systems and practices and to formulate alternatives that would strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of the social protection policy instruments while respecting transparency and harmonisations standards as recommended by the Commission of Inquiry.
The Social Assistance in the British Virgin Islands Review Report was developed and prepared by the Social Policy Research Institute (SPRI Global) in support of UNICEF Eastern Caribbean and the Government of the Virgin Islands.
The report reviewed the current design of social assistance benefits administered by the Ministry of Health and Social Development, the Social Development Department, and other governmental entities including the Ministry of Education, the House of Assembly and the Premier's Office. In addition, a reform plan for the Virgin Islands was designed to provide an alternative option to target benefits to beneficiaries effectively.
Madam Speaker, the report has several overarching recommendations on how we can improve our social assistance programme to effectively assist our residents. The five overarching recommendations in the report include increasing the minimum wage closer to what the report concluded was the minimum liveable wage in the Territory, which is $12 to $15 an hour.
The report also looked at having a universal children's grant, which would extend past education and healthcare benefits; there is mention of improving our pension scheme where the income gap for the elderly pensioners could be bridged by installing a pension-tested universal minimum social pension system.
In addition, a disability benefit that related to the degree of disabilities for individuals as well as installing unemployment benefits in the Territory were addressed in the final document.
The report aligns with the Ministry of Health and Social Development’s mandate to improve the management and delivery of Government-funded grants for community-based initiatives and basic instructions for drafting legislative elements for the reform.
Therefore, we want the public's input on the document so we can chart the way forward in providing adequate social assistance to persons in the Virgin Islands.