Seamen benefit reform coming

| 09/06/2014

(CNS): The premier has signalled that the Progressives will be examining the criteria and circumstances under which benefits are given to veterans and ex-servicemen. The issue was raised when Finance Committee examined the Community Affairs Ministry Friday and voted on several line items that amount to many millions of dollars given in welfare, poor relief and benefit payments to various different groups. Government is expecting tohelp around 1,000 families during the course of this budget year temporarily with food vouchers, rent, school, lunches and other welfare support but a significant sum is paid to seamen and veterans or their widows, none of which is means tested. Over 70 seamen are waiting to get on the list, which has some 800 recipients already on it.

Government is spending over $6.2 million in direct benefit payments to Caymanians or their surviving widows who served at sea, fought in either of the world wars or served in the Trinidad Navy. The payment of around $500 is paid to those who qualify, regardless of their income, and some elderly seamen and veterans are poor and in need but there are now concerns that some of those receiving benefits are not. However, there are 700 ex-seamen still waiting to get on the list but cannot because government does not have the resources to add new beneficiaries.

The extent of support that government pays to people in need was revealed during the scrutiny of both the output groups to manage the diverse range of welfare, benefits and support that government gives to the elderly, families in need and other indigents and the transfer payments.

There were questions regarding the number of veterans and seaman Cayman still has receiving benefits, which by its very nature was expected to decline over the years, but because many of the men who fought in the war or served at sea have younger widows the numbers have not begun to decline as anticipated.

Arden McLean said the policy of paying any man who had been to sea regardless of his financial circumstances was a badly thought out policy and had been introduced to help politicians in the late 1990s win an election.

However, Premier Alden McLaughlin, who is also the home and community affairs minister, said that his government would be examining the criteria and the circumstances surrounding these benefits and that the subject was expected to be discussed by caucus as the cost was escalating.

McLaughlin said Cabinet was already considering some recommendations and over the next few months some decisions would be made about the climbing costs and growing waiting list. He said people only come off the seamen of veterans list if they move overseas or die. Even then, much younger widows are still entitled to the benefit payment. As of 31 May, he said, more than 800 were getting payments while 793 people were on the waiting list. He pointed out that as more ex-seamen reach 60, that list grows and the government did not have the means to increase the budget for benefits.

Captain Eugene Ebanks said it was unfair when those in need, some of whom had been on the list for several years, were not getting anything when others who are not so badly off were.

With the Community Affairs Ministry also dealing with an increase in the need for permanent recipients of benefits, such as the elderly, disabled and indigent Caymanians, as well as families seeking temporary poor relief, the amount of welfares government has to hand out is increasing.

While some MLAs were clearly concerned about the amount of welfare being paid out of a cash-strapped public purse, others pointed out that it was an illustration of how bad things had become for many people.

Arden McLean, the independent member for East End, said it was a clear signal that “a lot of people are hurting and coming to government for assistance”, a sentiment shared by veteran politician and PPM backbencher Anthony Eden.

“I have never seen so many people hurting in my entire life. During my political career it has never been this bad. It’s rough, rough out there,” Eden said, as he warned that something had to happen to prevent people from turning to violence.

The rising levels of the support needed in the community also led to a number of questions about how Cayman was dealing with its aging population.

The premier signalled that he was examining there-introduction of liens on the homes and assets of the elderly who were in long term residential care or were on government benefits. McLaughlin said that too many families were expecting to inherit property from the elderly parents and were blocking the sale of land of homes to pay for their care. McLaughlin said many, older Caymanians have such assets but they do not have cash so government was picking up the tab.

He said one of the challenges, because of the advance in the social services system and health care, was a common belief of children that their parents' property shouldn’t be signed over to government. McLaughlin said the last government had abandoned the lien process but the amount of money government advances to people who have assets was growing. He explained that when they then pass on, the children inherit the property but the government is left out of pocket.

He said there were concerns about the elderly whose families were not taking care of them when they can’t take care of themselves and can’t afford to stay at the Pines, which although partially supported by government, is a private rest home. He said government had to find a way to help the elderly live in dignity.

Community Affairs Chief Officer Dorine Whittaker said that this financial year was the year that the ministry would be examining the elderly and their circumstance more closely. Government, she told the committee, has gradually been collecting data and information about the circumstances of Cayman’s elderly population and consulting with them about how they are living.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Easy solution, ensure that those receiving it are legitimate seamen of a set number of years. The benefit must cease at the time of the death of the seaman. No one else should be eligible. End of story. There are not many of them left so it should be easy to identify them. There has to be a cut off point. O

  2. Anonymous says:

    Cayman Islands………The welfare state…..continues

  3. Anonymous says:

    I hope that's an old photograph of their building and that, after all this time, someone has corrected the misspelling of 'Association' (it's not Assocation).  It's an embarrassment.

  4. Maiden Plum says:

    Everybody looking for a handout..after seeing the wages in today's paper for most of the jobs you have to wonder if you can blame them.  Cost of living is so blasted high its a wonder how some people can afford to have children working for the pay they are earning.  It's quite obvious why alot of people resort to crime as well.  Anything to makes ends meet and pay the bills.  It's also hard to ignore the disparity between the classes here.  Everywhere you look is someone driving a flashy car and living in enormous mansions.  Of course the local population want a piece of the pie! it's their island afterall….unfortunately for some the ignorance begins here and the victim mentality comes into play.  We as an island need to get it together and provide our citizens with low cost power, higher education and teach our children how to be entrepeneurs.  Once people can stop worrying about paying their enomous bills can we focus on improving their lives.


    Also – A miniumum wage is desperately needed. 

    • Anonymous says:

      I don't really think you have politicians capable of that. Good luck. 

  5. Anonymous says:

    such a poor choice in title…

  6. Anonymous says:

    What about that ambitious 92 year old lady whose husband that was a Seaman from the Brac that the seaman grant was not paid to her. I am made to understand that it was Politically taken from her because the woman was and is still hard working and trys to be supportive of her needs. It shouldnt matter what a person did with their moneys while they were young as some spent theirs in a stupid while folks like this lady put hers to good use. Looks like we sort a encourage laziness and bad spending while the ambitious are not supported.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps we can hire some consultants to produce an expensive report?

  8. UHUHUH says:
    Between 2009 and 2012 the UDP government ran up a bill of at least  $8,576,554.00 on travel expenses. But we have poor seamen who are starving who can't get  their little stipend to help put food on their table. THAT'S  CAYMAN  KIND FOLKS!
    But it seems that Government is not happy having to spend over $6.2 million in direct benefit payments to Caymanians seamen who are in need!
    • Anonymous says:

      I'm betting some of those 8 million dolla pols are legible for that seamans fund also. Captain who?

  9. Mark Hennings says:

    Cut the benefit out!

  10. Anonymous says:

    CIG needs to Stop giving cash & food vouchers!

    Not that they're not needed, but theyre being abused too much!

    These are spend at the overpriced school lunches; or the vouchers (or the purchased items) are easily traded for other "goods".

    Since there will never be price controls here, what CIG should do is import a few 40-foot containers each month filled with staple foods, and distribute it to the needy directly!

    But then, will the merchants allow them to do such?



  11. Anonymous says:

    Hey – Looky here.. what about re-evaluating the status grants??

    Specifically by determing a definition for "Native Caymanian / first people / belongers etc"!

    This is vital to the award of everything from taxi licences and scholarships and social service benefits, to duty waivers on property purchases!! (Which was intended for natives)

    The wave of Marriages of Convenience to the new status holders is creating a never-ending flood of issues!!  that, too once belonged to natives.  The snowball CAN be stopped if someone has the guts to do so.

    And don't start about "entitlement'.. this is Cayman, and it should be deserving Caymanians first – especially before undeserving (and often ungrateful) status holders.

    I love all good, decent persons, but we have enough of the "other kinds" in our own people, to be importing the same from other places.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are 100 percent head on.  Too many come- along-lately, that we could do without.  

      The children who are not taking care of their people, should not be the recipients of their parents properties and  if it was transferred to them, a law should be made to revert the property to government.   I have seen too many instances where parents have become ward of the state and the children are the beneficial owners.  Stop the madness, and put rules in perspective.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well said 18:16 Can we have a true figure of how many seamen are still alive? There are not many. I even heard of a famous Pastor in Cayman Brac who are getting the Seaman grant. If he went to sea in his Country then the grant should be paid by his Country.

    • Anonymous says:

      Um, nice idea, but where you gonna get your money from??

  12. Anonymous says:

    It used to be that people would be too embarassed to take this sort of handout.  Now they are lining up by the dozens to demand the CIG pay them.

    • Anonymous says:

      Because that's how Governments over the last 10 years have trained their voters – Government seems to be responsible for EVERYTHING and nobody is held accountable anymore for their own fate. Why does Government pay to bus children to school? Shouldn't it be the parents job to ensure their children somehow get to school?

  13. Anonymous says:

    But they al suffein

  14. Anonymous says:

    The time is right for  a national system of social security!  for a place of 50,000 people it does not make sense to have so many different pension providers.  How about this….everyone pays into a soverign wealth fund 12% of their salary which is managed in New York or London by investment managers. An addition 4% is charged for a Social Security Pension programme which is paid to anyone who recieves less than say $1500.00 a month in pension and resides in the Cayman Islands to make up the difference.

    This way everyone has a base level of support and we can scrap all the process that goes on trying to get welfare benefit and assessing everyone who walks in the door.  Also, this could aslo be used for people who are injured and have to be retired early.

    As it stands, the current situation cannot last. Welfare has become a system of luck and regardless of need they kick you off. Cancer patience dying are basically told go and died because we aint got the budget..


    Sick sick place boy!

  15. Anonymous says:

    I hope they are considering MLA remuneration and pensions at the same time.

    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly my sentiments 14:38! How hypocritical of government -any administration – to want to claw away this small benefit from our seamen who worked tirelessly to build the foundation fot this country to become what it is today, all the while they are reaping huge monthly salaries and pensions! Some double dipping as well! Not to mention those who sit and do nothing, one character we'll known for doing nothing, who us suddenly vocal on this issue.. How dare you all! There are only a small number of seamen left and this government should not take away this benefit from any of them. Removing the entitlement from the young wives is understandable and I suggest an amendment to to that, but don't take it from the seamen themselves. Those men earned this!  Have the men produce proof of going to see and weed out the scavengers getting it who are not seamen! What they really need to make Doreen get busy with is determining how many people with permanent residence is receiving benefits from social services! The law allows for revocation of permanent residence if the recipient is unable to maintain themselves. Not to mention the other lazy individuals who collect benefits from social services. These are the things that gkvernment should be addressing and leave our  seamen alone! This is causing them unnecessary stress! Shame on you all!

  16. Anonymous says:

    I went to sea a few times in my younger days. Was told the sea was good to heal those STDs. Can I apply for some of those seamen benefits?

    Ask the real families of most of those seamen, they will tell you the stories of how they had to work hard to support the drunkard abusive husband when he returned broke and sick from the activities that took place in those ports. Including that famous Asian port they all brag about.

    This is an insult to real seamen around the world. This an single mothers that are encouraged to produce babies, the more the rent and food tickets are paid. Enough is enough. Cayman has already become a Welfare Island.  It’s a politician paradise.

    I overheard a lady that can barely speak English saying to a Caymanian man. "dey does cam ya an tek wey all a we caymanian jobs an na relize dat we haf fa wok ya too". I can only imagine "married to Caymanian", and I can bet you they are the ones receiving most of these benefits in all categories of social services.

  17. Knot S Smart says:

    Is it true that times were so hard back when we had seamen, that a lot of the wives had their babies more than 9 months after their husbands were away?

    • Anonymous says:

      This is still happening now a days with expatriates comming here to work and going back home after five years and the wives have two three children while they were gone

    • And Another Ting says:

      You are despicable and the first candidate for the cat o nine flogging by the post office.idjut.

  18. Anonymous says:

    This programmer needs to be phased out. 


  19. Anonymous says:

    pure talk they aint going to do anything

  20. Anonymous says:

    Mr McLaughlin have no idea what is happeing.  The break down came whne the Socal service department began taking care of persons who are nrot from Cayman but have PR.  These peple worked here for many years, but they nvested in  their coutry . t hey applied for Residece and Status  and then had no money here, but wanted to live off the Cayman Islnds Govenment moey.  Thi s    canont work M McLaugholin.  This money is for the peisople wo built th country.

    We got to  help those in need because if we do not then more poverty will increase, crime will increase and a national breakdownof heah wealtt and   happiness.

    Many children cannot help their parents, because theyare in debt of loosng heir homes lready.  y sggestonst increase the 500.000 to 800.00 fr all eldely 65 ad over.  Out of that the pay ligt andwater and food.   500 dolas cannot keep aeldery person aive

  21. Anonymous says:

    This is BS! No more benefits should be paid out to anyone until proper checks and balances are in place. Plenty sit on big junks of land, yet they claim they are broke.  I am tired to see the ones who are holding out their hands, yet they have money to buy cigarettes and booze. I am not just talking about the "seamen" but also the ones who qualify for social services etc.

    Same thing with charity – you can't go into town on a Saturday running errands because at every stop, somebody is there asking for donations. I don't mind giving and sharing, but I am tired of seeing those kids who want donations for their school trips and competitions etc, yet they are busy talking on their brand new Iphone while begging for support. Half of them can't even explain to you what it is they are asking money for. The same goes for some of the other charities. I refuse to support a family who claims they can't afford food for their children, yet the women sport acrylic nails and the men smoke!


  22. Diogenes says:

    CNS can you clarify what is being paid.  The article says that the payment is $500 and there are 800 recipients, but then says the cost is $6.2m  The maths doesnt add up – even if the payment is monthly. 

    • C'mon Now! says:

      Just remember that on this island we need to spend a few million just to give a few million away!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Surely this benefit should ONLY apply to seamen from an earlier time. Simply institute a cut-off year. I would recommend 1970. So seamen before that year would qualify. After that year Cayman was a different place. Men did not HAVE to go to sea to make a living. Many in fact returned home and went into other areas like construction, maintenance, etc. The numbers receiving this benefit should actually be declining as these "iron men & women" pass on.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Reform is long overdue. The ex Premier is strangely quiet on this one

  25. Anonymous says:

    One very important criteria must be considered – whether some such ex-servicemen represented the Cayman Islands in their military service or some other country, from which they are already receiving benefits. Please be sure, I am 100% for compensating valid, elgible Caymanian merchant seamen, as it was they who fueled our limited economy during the "Southwell" years and prior. I also fully support compensating genuine veterans who volunteered from the Cayman Islands to serve in HM and other Allied forces in various arenas during WW2. However, If one looks at the present membership of the CI Veterans, one will see men who have served in HM, Canadian and US military branches (not necessarily having seen any "action") and who, most certainly, are already receiving related benefits from those countries. Criteria must be established and well maintained to determine if such veratans are eligible for additional benefits from limited CI coffers.

    Additionally, while acknowledging that CI merchant seaman (and legitimitate surviving spouses) should be eligible for benefits, some of these seamen are now millionaires as a result of their subsequent business successes. Perhaps those in that category should volunteer their veterans' benefits to the less fortunate vets. 

    In any case, the list of those "eligible" merchant seamen and ex-servicemen has long been corrupted, costing the CI more than it should to provide the benefits. This must be corrected. 

  26. Anonymous says:

    This nonsense was dreamed up by the UDP to buy votes. The most vocal supporters was given a monthly check for their support. We never had 800 seamen during the last 800 years. When I grew up in the 60's & 70's you could go from district to district and count on one hand how many men was away at sea at any given time. Some saved their money and invested, others blew it at every port, wine, women and song. Now I have to pay taxes to give these people a little 'hep'. We have slowly destroyed what our forefathers created.

    • Anon says:

      You must be too young to have a grasp on this. I'm sure you don't know of the time when our men went out by the plane loads – special charter flights to take them to join their ships – some of the young men as young as 17 years old.  In addition there were those who worked on ships that serviced the local needs, plying between Jamaica, Tampa and Miami. We didn't have much of an airfreight service, if any at all, and everything was brought to us by these ships. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Supposedly if you have semen you can get paid!

  27. Capt. Semen says:

    When the elder seaman dies cease payment to the new younger expat wife this results in an immediate cost savings

    • Anonymous says:

      Some only marry them because they heard about the payment to seamen and expect to collect the payment after their death.

    • Anonymous says:

      To fix this. Have the revision include the monthly income stop at the death of the individual. However if the wife was the wife during the time he was a seama, allow the payment to continue. Also for current payments, I understand they are directly paid to a bank account. Most of these wives no longer live in Cayman and are reaping the benefits of a one/two year marriage. I know of one who left prior to his death and lives in New York and receives her monthly payment. Vultures these creatures are preying on the elderly. 

  28. Anonymous says:

    The "value for money" experts haven't bothered to means test these payments for decades.  

    • Anonymous says:

      Simply because, 10:15, the experts whereof you speak were not allowed to by the politicians since the whole "seaman thing" is bathed in a holy, untouchable light. Or has been up to now when it is obvious fraud is rife.

  29. Anonymous says:

    The number of seamen getting benefits and waiting to get benefits boggles my mind! Was there anyone in Cayman who did not "go to sea?" My understanding is that anyone who went, for however short a period, qualifies for the benefits. This seems patently unfair to the tax paying pubicand to those who really deserve it. As far as I'm concerned there should be a minimum set of qualifications including duration of time spent at sea, as well as the financial status of the individual. Also, my understanding is that the wives of ex-seamen are in line to receive the benefits whether or not they were married to the man during the time that he was at sea. This is flat out wrong. If an aging seaman marries at this stage of his life, there should be no way that the wife continues to receive benefits after his death. This whole programme is out of control and enough money has already been wasted. I'm glad to see that some kind of reform is in the works.

    • Anonymous says:

      Good on you Mr. Premier.  I will go  as far to say that some of the men should not have gotten money.   Those who only stayed at sea for a few months should not qualify. I also think that the cheques should have gone to the wives they left behind to raise the children instead of to some of the men who received it and has now passed in on to their younger wives. These women know nothing of the hardship of trying to feed, school and provide otherwise for the children in their fathers' absence. Now that the husbands and the first wives are decesed and the children are now grandmothers and grandfathers themselves,  the funds need stop immediately.  Some of them only married the older men to get their hand on the loot.  I understand that some of them did not even live in the same house with them.  Mr. Premier , make the difficult decisions necessary to stop this raping of our dollars.

    • Anonymous says:

      There is a simple solution. Honor all the seamen getting or wanting benefits by taking out a full page ad in the paper with their names and when, how, and for how long they served.