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NIS Board making statutory bid

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NIS Board making statutory bid
Chairman of the National Insurance Scheme, Leslie Haynes, QC (GP)

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The Board of the National Insurance Department submitted a report to the Ministry of Finance last week to be recognised as a statutory corporation.

Currently, the organisation which oversees Barbados’ social security scheme functions as a department within the Ministry, severely hampering its ability to make certain strategic decisions, says chairman of the National Insurance Scheme, Leslie Haynes, QC.

He was speaking on Wednesday evening during the latest COVID management update by Government which featured Minister of Labour Colin Jordan; Acting Director of NIS, Jennifer Hunte; and Chief Labour Officer, Claudette Hope-Greenidge.

They spoke on the topic COVID-19: Your Workplace and You.

Haynes said if this request was approved by the Ministry and Cabinet, the Board would have “a little bit more control and a firmer hand” with respect to the staff, who can currently be transferred to any other Ministry even after undergoing years of specialist training at the NIS.

In the report, they are also requesting that the Board remains as presently constituted. Describing it as a reflection of the Social Partnership, he pointed out the Chief Labour Officer, representatives from the Barbados Employers’ Confederation, the Barbados Workers’ Union and the National Union of Public Workers made up the board, along with three people appointed by the Prime Minister.

This strategic change would pave the way for them to become “a more comprehensive unit, a more efficient unit”, leading to “an essential step in the growth of social security in Barbados”, Haynes added.

The chairman said Barbadians should now have a better understanding of the importance of social security as one lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered the application for statutory status.

Haynes said in 2020, the NIS paid out over $155 million from 50 000 unemployment claims. Of that amount, there were approximately 38 000 individual claims, but 4 000 did not qualify for assistance. He said the NIS had to make changes to processes to ensure people were paid both unemployment and severance claims with alacrity.

Haynes said when they took over in 2018, one of the goals of then chairman Ian Gooding-Edghill was to clear the backlog and make payments in a more timely manner. He praised management and staff of the NIS, who despite dealing with a significantly larger number of claims in 2020, have just about the same number of outstanding claims at this time, an indication of how hard they have been working. (SAT)