The welfare beneficiary system began with the old age pension scheme in August, 1965 with an annual budget of about $30,000.
Today, the old age pension is approximately worth $12.2 million and the total pension budget paid as a Payment on Behalf of Crown (POBOC) is $18.3m annually.
Paul Allsworth, the ministry’s acting secretary, said it was time to reflect on the past, in terms of performance and impact of the welfare beneficiary payments.
He said the workshop would focus on responding to the needs of the people concerning their future needs and requirements in terms of its financial and social impact and sustainability of welfare payments.
The workshop which will be held at the National Auditorium starting at 8am, is expected to draw over 150 people, and will include a broad community representation from government, private sector, non-government organisations (NGOs) and members of the public.
“This (workshop) will benefit not only Internal Affairs but government as a whole,” Allsworth said.
“With the exchange of information, both qualitative and quantitative, between the service provider - ie Internal Affairs on behalf of government and the various welfare recipients, in other words, the people, we can better understand how effective past welfare payments have been. At the same time, we can plan for future requirements based on their feedback and implementing sound credible policies that are in line with our national sustainable development goals.”
The Cook Islands has the most extensive welfare system in the Pacific Islands, starting with old age pension, introduced in 1965.
In 1989, the Welfare Act was passed in Parliament, introducing the additional payments of child benefit and the new born allowance.
A decade later in 2000, the caregiver’s allowance, funeral allowance, Christmas bonus, power subsidy and special assistance were established by government policy to strengthen the social protection systems in the Cook Islands.
The Employment Relations Act was passed in 2013 and gave effect to the maternity leave payment for women in the private sector.
The most recent new payment launched in 2016, the Care Order Payment, recognises the situation of vulnerable children and provides support to family members who have children placed in their care by the courts.
In 2017, the Welfare Act was amended to extend the child benefit to disabled children up to the age of 16.
“From a humble three payments, there are now 13 welfare payments administered by the Ministry of Internal Affairs on behalf of government,” Allsworth said.
“These payments are government’s attempt to provide a safety net to the most vulnerable members in the community so they can enjoy a higher standard of living.”
- Rashneel Kumar
7:45am Workshop arrangements and participants to be seated.
8:05 Opening Pure by the Avarua CICC Pastor.
8:10 Introductions, Objectives and Workshop Format by the Acting Secretary of Internal Affairs, Paul Allsworth
8:20 Luisa Manuofetoa – Acting CEO Internal Affairs, Kingdom of Tonga
8:25 Public Service Commissioner, Russell Thomas
8:30 Official Opening by Albert Nicholas, Minister of Internal Affairs.
8:35 Overview of all welfare beneficiary payments by Director of Welfare Services, Ms Ngatuaine Maui and assisted by Senior Welfare Inspector, Takingaiva Eitiare Framhein and Senior Welfare Officer, Grace Chynoweth.
9:35 Question and Answers Session
10:00 Morning tea break.
10:15 Economic data and social protection analysis by the Welfare Division senior staff.
11:15 Question and answer session.
12 noon Lunch
1pm break-up into specific benefit groups
Group Leader for 1 Ngatuaine Maui: Old Age Pension
Group Leader for 2 Nooroa Numanga: Child Support – (Child Benefit, New Born Allowance, Maternity Leave Payment, Child Benefit Disability Extension and Care Order)
Group Leader for 3 Iva Eitiare Framhein : Infirm, Destitute and Caregivers Payment
Group Leader for 4 Grace Chynoweth: Special Assistance, Funeral Allowance, Power Subsidy, Christmas Bonus.
2:30 Groups Reporting Back.
3:30 Afternoon Tea Break.
3:45 Summary of Key Workshop Outcomes and Recommendations.
4:30 Closing Prayer