BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei will change the eligibility requirements for government financial aid as part of welfare reforms that will be implemented through the new digitalised National Welfare System (SKN) on July 15.

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports YB Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin said specific welfare programmes will change their eligibility criteria based on the Minimum Cost of Basic Needs (KMKA) and OECD-modified scale method.

KMKA is an inflation-adjusted amount that takes into account a typical Bruneian household’s expenditure while the OECD-modified scale assigns a certain percentage of the welfare aid to all household members.

Currently, the Community Development Department’s (JAPEM) monthly welfare assistance and Brunei Islamic Religious Council’s (MUIB) financial aid to the poor and destitute are provided to heads of households only.

During a press conference on Monday, the minister did not state which welfare programmes will adopt the KMKA and OECD-modified scale approach but said JAPEM and MUIB’s eligibility criteria for monthly assistance remain unchanged.

Applicants can opt to apply for aid either from JAPEM or MUIB through the digitalised National Welfare System, a centralised database that has been created to avoid duplication of benefits.

Second minister of finance and economy (MoFE) YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said the system will improve information sharing and enhance the effectiveness of the country’s welfare programmes.

The reforms aim to lift welfare recipients out of poverty and ensure that assistance is given to those who truly need financial support.

Latest government figures showed that there are 9,451 heads of households receiving monthly welfare assistance, including 5,678 JAPEM recipients and 3,773 recipients under MUIB.

The number of welfare recipients is expected to increase following the COVID-19 outbreak, said YB Major General (Rtd) Dato Hj Aminuddin.

He said a task force will be set up to implement the system, and the ministry is responsible for managing all applications and ensuring the data filed into the system is accurate.

The minister said SKN will be able to provide a more comprehensive picture of the country’s welfare system to make sure no one is left behind in the distribution of financial aid.

“The system will be able to provide a profile of applicants’ demographics and their background including their family members and the types of assistance needed,” he added.

SKN will be able to produce a “map of welfare recipients” for appropriate analysis and intervention, including addressing unemployment issues and providing opportunities recipients to secure employment and gain skills that help them to become self-sufficient.

Existing welfare recipients can start updating their profiles starting today by submitting the necessary documents to JAPEM.

New applications will only be open from July 15 but existing recipients can also update their profile online.

Applications for SKN are only open to Brunei citizens and residents. In the first phase, the system is only open to those who wish to apply for JAPEM’s monthly assistance and the poor and destitute assistance scheme under MUIB.

The second phase will see the system extended to other welfare programmes such as old age pension, disability allowance, food ration, home repair assistance or home application and temporary shelter.

To apply for SKN, applicants must have a valid email account, which will be used as confirmation of registration.

Applicants who do not have access to a computer or mobile phone can apply at their nearest JAPEM branch.

In addition to JAPEM staff, village heads will also assist the applicants in the registration process.

The 24-hour 141 Welfare Line will be open from June 23 to address any queries related to SKN.