The Dutch government is facilitating two important changes for Saba: the local government will become in charge of implementing the special allowance (bijzondere onderstand) and teachers will no longer need a work permit to work in Saba.
Dutch State Secretary of Social Affairs and Labour Bas van ‘t Wout informed the Dutch Parliament on Friday of these changes, both of which are good news for Saba: the island government has been asking for several years to acquire more authority in implementing policies on a local level and to have certain tasks transferred to the public entity.
The change of the tasks for special allowance and the work permit exemption for teachers has been pending for a while. In June 2019, then-State Secretary of Social Affairs and Labour Tamara van Ark paid a working visit to Saba. During this visit, a number of practical agreements were made with the Executive Council, including the transfer of the special allowance task to the public entity Saba and exempting teachers from the work permit obligation.
The decree regulating the execution of the Foreign Labour Law for the Caribbean Netherlands will be adapted to facilitate the exemption for teachers. According to current State Secretary Van ‘t Wout, the bottleneck of lacking local labour supply is the biggest in the area of teachers and the continuity of education is at stake if the procedures for attracting qualified teachers are not made easier. The exemption includes teaching staff at Saba University School of Medicine. “Saba is a small economic community which greatly depends on workers from abroad. This especially counts for education, because there are no teachers available locally. Considering the continuity of education, it has been agreed with the public entity Saba to exempt the profession of teacher from the work permit obligation,” Van ‘t Wout stated.
A foreigner who teaches in Saba will still need a residence permit. The schools remain responsible for checking the teachers’ education qualifications and a certificate of good conduct will also remain mandatory to safeguard the quality in education and to prevent undesired situations.
In a January 2020 letter to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, then-State Secretary Van Ark confirmed the work permit exemption for teachers. In the same letter, she announced that Saba would be granted a bigger say in the social domain by transferring the authority in the area of executing the issuing the special allowance. Currently, the social affairs and labour unit of the National Department Caribbean Netherlands RCN is in charge of allocating the special allowance. The special allowance is meant to alleviate the burden of persons who cannot afford certain basic necessities or expenses.
The RCN SZW unit allocates special allowances to persons receiving social welfare (onderstand), for example, to support the cost of a medical diet, the purchase of school uniforms and school supplies for secondary education students, a baby outfit and baby bed, a bed mattress, dental expenses, funeral expenses and the purchase of water.
Saba already has a local poverty policy in place under which it applies certain instruments to assist needy persons in the community. Some of these instruments resemble the assistance provided under the special allowance. Therefore, a conjunction via a redivision of tasks is an obvious move to arrive at an integral synchronisation within the island’s poverty policy, the state secretary clarified.
Van ‘t Wout gave as an example the assistance provided by the public entity Saba to parents who cannot afford to buy a school uniform for their child attending primary school and the assistance to needy persons who do not receive social welfare to help cover the costs of a funeral.
He noted that keeping two separate windows for assistance in the social domain was not only logistically impractical, but also not very client-friendly.
This issue was specifically pointed out by the Spies evaluation committee. “The situation in the past years resulted in many uncertainties both for the professionals as well as residents on the question where a request for financial support should be submitted. Through this law-change, this issue is being solved for the public entity Saba which deems itself ready for the transfer of this task.”
The legislation changes were sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Friday. Both legislation changes will become effective per July 1, 2021. This date should grant the public entity Saba sufficient preparation time, also to establish an island ordinance to carry out the special allowance task.
The state secretary confirmed that both measures will apply only to Saba at this time. It is possible that Bonaire and St. Eustatius can assume the task of executing the special allowance in the future.
The Daily Herald.