BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — Half of the 14,000 people who registered through the new digitalised National Welfare System (SKN) have sought financial assistance since it was launched on July 15, the minister of culture, youth and sports said.

As of November, about 7,000 people have applied for aid either through the Community Development Department (JAPEM) or Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB), said YB Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan POKSMDSP Hj Abidin.

SKN is a centralised welfare database that has been created to avoid duplication of benefits and is part of wider reforms to lift welfare recipients out of poverty.

“We have already sent more than 1,000 [financial aid] applications to the meetings [for approval].

“The challenge here is… we have to understand that this is new and we try to ensure reducing the Client’s Charter from three to two months,” the minister said in a recent interview.

YB Dato Hj Aminuddin said manpower problems will need to be ironed out to expedite the application process, adding that i-Ready apprentices will be hired to address the issue.

Welfare eligibility requirements have also been revised to ensure assistance is rendered to those who truly need financial support.

The minister previously said the number of welfare recipients is expected to increase following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Latest government data showed that there were 9,451 heads of households receiving monthly welfare assistance, including 5,678 JAPEM recipients.

The first phase of SKN involves opening applications for recipients under JAPEM’s monthly aid and MUIB’s poor and destitute assistance scheme.

The system will extend to other welfare programmes such as old-age pension and disability allowance in the second phase.

No time frame was given on when the second phase will start, but the minister said the first phase is targeted to be completed by January next year.

SKN to help gov’t analyse causes of poverty

The ministry has also started analysing applicants’ demographics and their background through SKN.

Details of welfare recipients are expected to help the government address unemployment issues as well as provide recipients with opportunities to secure jobs and gain skills that help them to become self-sufficient.

The system will give the stakeholders – MCYS, Ministry of Finance and Economy and SKN taskforce – key performance indicators to break the poverty cycle.

“The system is dynamic, it has to be fluid and it has to be adaptable to changes. I think we can learn from the BruHealth app,” YB Dato Hj Aminuddin added.

BruHealth is a contract-tracing app rolled out by the health ministry in May to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the country.  

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

Those who do not have internet access can apply at their nearest JAPEM branch or seek help from village heads.

Some 7,000 people needed help with their applications, the minister said.