BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports’ welfare spending has declined by over 20 percent in the 2021/22 financial year after the government tightened eligibility rules for old-age pension last October.
Speaking at a closed-door dialogue with Legislative Council (LegCo) members on Wednesday, the minister of culture, youth and sports said $98.5 million was spent on old-age pension and disability allowance in the 2021/2022 financial year.
Another $9.9 million was spent on monthly welfare assistance for over 6,100 recipients, said YB Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan POKSMDSP Hj Abidin.
In the previous financial year, the ministry had disbursed $140 million of welfare benefits.
Old-age pension recipients decreased three percent to 42,700 from 43,941 due to amended laws where permanent residents with foreign citizenship no longer qualify for the $250 monthly pension.
The revised laws also introduced additional benefits for senior citizens with disabilities, with 208 people receiving their monthly old-age pension and disability allowance so far.
In addition, new disability laws replaced the dependent allowance with care provider allowance to assist carers in supporting special needs individuals.
More than 25,000 people applied for welfare assistance
As of February 8, 2022, a total of 25,806 people have registered in the National Welfare System (SKN).
The digitalised welfare system allows members of the public to submit online applications for welfare assistance and enables government agencies to share data to avoid duplication of benefits.
Some 25,761 people have applied for welfare assistance through the system, including 12,989 seeking the Community Development Department’s financial assistance while 12,772 people have applied for financial aid under the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB).
The minister said SKN has reduced the processing of applications from 146 to 48 days for JAPEM and 124 to 51 days for MUIB.
SKN was said to provide a comprehensive overview on the demographics and profiles of welfare assistance applicants to assist in formulating evidence-based policies and best practices.
Over 100 people with disabilities working in public, private sectors
More than 100 people with disabilities are working in the public and private sectors, the minister said.
He added that out of 125 people with disabilities who were registered with JobCentre Brunei, 49 have found jobs while 21 are actively seeking employment.
Another 883 people categorised under underprivileged groups were hired through the Manpower Planning and Employment Council (MPEC).
Moreover, 726 individuals under vulnerable groups have found employment through MPEC and JobCentre.
To date, 1,812 of 4,784 individuals categorised under vulnerable groups have registered with JobCentre Brunei.
National Youth Policy Action Plan and Strategy 2020-2024
YB Dato Hj Aminuddin said over 97 percent of programmes and activities in the National Youth Policy Action Plan and Strategy 2020-2024 have been implemented.
The programmes included awarding entrepreneurship assistance to 10,561 youths from 2020 to 2021 as an incentive for youth to become self-employed.
Youth also operated 148 agricultural development sites under the action plan, including 24 incubator facilities and entrepreneurial spaces for individuals with disabilities.
The minister added that 8,000 youth volunteers have been deployed to 143 locations since the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
Around 600 to 800 volunteers are deployed on a daily basis to distribute food rations to individuals undergoing isolation, said YB Dato Hj Aminuddin.
To date, the government has spent nearly $3 million on the distribution of food rations.
More than 3,000 houses with 20,000 household members have also received food rations collected from public donations since September 2021.