BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports is conducting a study with the Manpower Planning and Employment Council to develop a new employment policy for people with disabilities and the disadvantaged, its minister said at the Legislative Council meeting on Tuesday.

YB Dato Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Hj Abidin said only 49 of 125 persons with disabilities registered with JobCentre had secured employment.

Another 110 special needs people are currently working in the public and private sectors.

The new policy is expected to increase the employment of people with disabilities and create a more inclusive society.

MCYS is also planning to construct a new building complex that will provide skills training, “entrepreneurship hub” and rehabilitation for special needs individuals.

A total 901 people from low-income groups found jobs last year, and the government is targeting the provision of 500 jobs for the disadvantaged each year, the minister said.

The ministry tabled a budget of $98.31 million for the 2022/2023 fiscal year, including $14.45 million for its development projects.

The proposed budget represented a 5.7 percent decrease from the previous financial year.

Welfare spending falls 14%

MCYS has spent $119.78 million on old-age pension and disability allowances in the 2021/2022 fiscal year, down 14 percent from the previous year.

The amount was disbursed to 42,793 recipients up until early March this year.

The drop in welfare spending comes after the government tightened eligibility rules for old-age pension last October. Under the revised rules, permanent residents with foreign citizenship no longer qualify for the $250 monthly pension.

In addition, new disability laws replaced the dependent allowance with care provider allowance to assist carers in supporting special needs individuals.

YB Dato Hj Aminuddin said 208 people are receiving both the old-age pension and disability allowance, while 1,567 applications for the carer’s allowance were being reviewed.

A screenshot of the SKN website. Photo: The Scoop

Meanwhile, 28,003 people seeking financial aid have been registered on the National Welfare System (SKN), a centralised database that was introduced in 2020 to avoid duplication of welfare benefits.

The minister said of the total, 13,297 sought the Community Development Department’s (JAPEM) monthly welfare assistance, while 13,276 applied for aid through the Brunei Islamic Religious Council.

“Under JAPEM, 10,492 applications were brought forward to the application evaluation committee and 4,614 applications were approved for financial aid and in-kind financial aid amounting to an estimated $9 million,” he said.

He added that artificial intelligence is being used to provide a comprehensive view and formulate policies and strategies to address poverty through SKN.

“This data will be optimised through a joint sharing network with Universiti Brunei Darussalam and the Centre for Strategic And Policy Studies as a basis to poverty eradication policies,” he said.

Foster care programme to launch in April

Preparations are underway to introduce a new foster care programme in April, allowing children to be placed under the protection of a foster family on a temporary basis, instead of being housed at the Welfare Home Complex.

The foster care programme will complement the Registry of Children and Young Persons In Need Of Protection, which is also slated to start in April.

The registry of children in need of protection is a centralised database that is expected to facilitate inter-agency monitoring of children or young people who need immediate protection.

The ministry is also looking to expand programmes and activities at the Senior Citizens Centre, including provision of care and entrepreneurship.

“The family institution plays an important role in elderly care and we are mulling over plans with private companies to introduce accredited programmes to train caretakers, including family members,” the minister said.

MCYS will also conduct a survey on women’s development with an unnamed research institution later this year.

The study is expected to help in developing policies and programmes related to women, while promoting equal opportunities.

Students play football, which was organised as part of the Universal Children’s Day activities in 2020. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

MCYS allocates $15.5 million to improve sports ecosystem

YB Dato Hj Aminuddin said the government has set aside $15.5 million to execute programmes that strengthen the sports ecosystem in Brunei.

These programmes are aimed at developing sports talent, providing a stable environment for athletes, as well as promoting sports where athletes have a better chance of winning medals.

He added that MCYS is collaborating with sports science and medicine specialists to study requirements in promoting a high-performance culture, including infrastructure, manpower, equipment and technology.

The study, targeted to be completed by April, will be used to determine Brunei’s two-year high-performance sports strategies and action plan.

Meanwhile the minister said upgrading works of cultural infrastructure are expected to be completed this year, including Brunei Museum, the Art Gallery at Royal Wharf and Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium.

“They will be optimised with technology and the provision of multi-functional facilities. It will provide opportunities and incentives for entrepreneurship and the creative industry,” he added.