Transfer of two tasks to Saba

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.

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