BVI News

HOA assistance grants shift ‘had to happen’ — Penn

Opposition Leader Marlon Penn

Despite protests from some quarters, Health & Social Development Minister Marlon Penn has contended that the decision to move assistance grants from the control of district representatives to his ministry was necessary for transparency. 

The House of Assembly (HOA) moved assistance grants previously facilitated through House members and ministries to the Social Development Department (SDD) last year after the release of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) report.

COI Commissioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom concluded that it was highly likely that serious dishonesty may have taken place and said nothing was being done to prevent or discourage such conduct so he proposed that, “House of Assembly Members’ Assistance Grants and the Government Ministries’ Assistance Grants in their current form should cease forthwith.” 

Penn was not shy about backing the shift.

“I supported the move, I think it’s a move that had to happen. I think persons need to be able to be clear on what the process is for them to get support and assistance – it needs to be clear, it needs to be transparent, and we need to make sure that it’s not cumbersome,” Penn said recently.

He said his ministry is now revising the policy and procedure through which residents can benefit from the system, as was recommended in the COI report. 

He also argued that the grants programme at the SDD had been in place for some time and was in need of review. 

“We are about to roll out the findings of that report, we are about to make some changes and adjustments in terms of how we determine how persons qualify,” Penn said. “You have the unemployed, you have the underemployed, and you have the working poor.”

Outreach needed

The Health Minister explained that the government has budgeted $2.4 million for the assistance grants programme at the SDD – some four times more than the amount previously allocated. 

In the meantime, he said more outreach was needed for the most vulnerable to benefit from the new system, since not everyone has access to old or new media platforms. 



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  1. old krook says:

    It ok because he is still getting to control his being that he is minister for the subject

  2. Lb says:

    Our small community and lack of confidentiality means the programme will be ineffective. We are still honourable and proud people. We won’t ask for help or go through the process if it isn’t confidential. Those people in social development like talk people business and have your information in the street. What works in or is good for UK didn’t mean it is good for our small territory, nor should we adopt everything the UK or other places do. It might not be effective for us!

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  3. Kirk says:

    You know it is always easier to say that the workers have people business on the street when in fact in most instances, the persons who apply tell everyone they submitted an application. If someone put your business, then file a complaint to the necessary agency because all civil servants have signed a confidentiality agreement.

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  4. SMH says:

    If clueless was a person!

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  5. Really says:

    There is nothing confidential about needing help. If you need help, the only way you are going to get it is to apply for the help, which means your situation will be known to someone or some entity; so please stop with the nonsense.

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  6. Hmmmm says:

    This is nothing short of wicked and a poor excuse of how not to help people in real need. Marlon you all have failed the people.

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  7. Solution says:

    The District allocation could have stayed with the House of Assembly but put committees from each District to assist in strengthening polices, transparency and good governance in the best interest of each District and tax payers. But this is not the case because most of the elected officials always looked at the people as a burden until they want our vote. Now they sending us to the dark hole of Social Development where all our business will be on the street and we have to be humiliated by a set of rude non-professional people. This is the end of the people in need in the BVI thanks to Marlon and this Unity Government. Who feels it knows it. The COI has no power over the people’s House of Affairs. Our leaders need to get back bone and fight for what is right.

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  8. Not good says:

    The UK used their own COI and their own handpicked Commissioner of the COI to give recommendations that they always wanted to implement but needed a so-called transparent way to get it done but most of them are not in the best interest of the people of the BVI. It seems as if our culture and heritage mean nothing to them and our elected officials have stop fighting for our best interests and bowing to some of these wicked actions being recommended.

  9. See Stuff says:

    Taxpayer funded programs cannot be secret.
    Transparency is required as it is preached for good Governance. First of all it goes a long way in preventing fraud and abuse.

  10. Who feels it knows it. says:

    Yes, tax payers paid the assistance being given.
    Everyone makes mistakes, some are real stupid. So let’s say someone was doing well during an earlier time, but later on after lending money to so called friends, or going into business (unlike the banks that are very exacting with their transactions) there are those those that will take advantage of good decent people, situations that can cause persons to be in situations they themselves find unbelievable.
    I believe its possible for persons in such situations to be honest in explaining what happened or how, without several other person’s, (on boards for example) to dig every last secret a person has, just to qualify for say 300.00 a month, which is often is the case.

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