HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 642: 14 November 2012

Many going hungry

Four churches on Rarotonga are sending food parcels to needy families and the elderly.
It’s a sad fact of life that cracks have opened up in our society and some have fallen through them.
How have things come to this? Why has it been allowed to happen?
A person who prepares food parcels for 20 families in need, told the Herald these families have been assessed and the two main considerations are children and elderly living alone or with family.
The type of goods provided include dried goods (such as sugar, tea, flour, rice, bread), tinned food (such as spaghetti, fish), noodles and even items such as mosquito coils.
Of the church groups distributing food, some do it twice a year, weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
An issue for the volunteers who deliver the food parcels is the cost of fuel.
The person said the matter of hungry families is a very emotional, very sensitive one. There are reports of children going to school hungry and at lunch time, hiding behind sheds so the other kids do not see that they have nothing to eat. The person, after noticing her boy came home with his lunch unfinished, told him to share his lunch with someone who did not have any.
Sharing is a way, the person said, for the community to help those in need. Do not wait for someone to ask for help because they may be too shy, too embarrassed or too proud to ask.
Now, you may ask, what is government doing about helping these people? Where is the safety net?
There is a destitute allowance available through the Ministry of Internal Affairs and applicants must satisfy a committee set up under the Welfare Act 1989 to receive the allowance of $75 a fortnight. The destitute allowance is one of five legislated payments under the Act.
Ministry records for the period 1-15 November 2012 show there were 42 persons in receipt of the benefit in the Cook Islands. Mangaia-19, Aitutaki-7, Rarotonga-4, Pukapuka-4, Atiu-3, Penrhyn-3, Mauke-2.
The committee meets once a month and the members are; Secretary of Health (Chair), Secretary of Internal Affairs (Deputy Chair), Director of Welfare (Chief Examiner), two Inspectors-Director of Disabilities and the Senior Welfare Inspector. The committee reviews cases as allowances are initially granted for a period of three months and are then reviewed at three monthly intervals. The committee cannot approve an allowance for longer than one year and may impose conditions. The committee also considers whether the applicant can be rehabilitated or helped to find employment.
Two concerns are; that the legal definition of destitute under the Act does not accurately fit most circumstances.
Under the Act, a destitute person is one who is unable to permanently support himself by his own means or labour and includes persons with dependants where such dependants are unable through infirmity or age to support themselves by their own means or labour.
A review of the Welfare Act was carried out in 2010 funded by the ADB. The findings of the review were announced in September 2011.
One recommendation was;
“Recalculating benefits that are currently means-tested (the Destitute and Infirm Person’s relief, Care-givers Allowance, Power Subsidy, Special Assistance Projects) by household, rather than by individual, as is done at present (see para 3.7.3) which could allow for a fairer distribution of payments and, quite likely, higher welfare receipts for some households.”
A multi-sector steering committee set up to recommend options for the 2013-2014 Budget will meet on Wednesday.

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

Copyright 2006 Cook Islands Herald online . All rights reserved.