The participants at one of the Cook Islands National Social Assistance Policy public consultations held at the New Hope Church in Tutakimoa. MELINA ETCHES/23060635
Consultations have been held in Rarotonga and Aitutaki to share reviews and have discussions with members of the public on the proposed Cook Islands National Social Assistance Policy.
Grace Chynoweth, Ministry of Internal Affairs’ director
of Welfare Services, said, “currently we don’t have a National Social
Around five years ago a researched review was done by
the Economic Policy Research Institute (EPRI) with the United Nations Children’s
Fund (UNICEF) and the Cook Islands Government.
Chynoweth said the review presented guidelines in
regards to improving and strengthening social welfare services in the country.
One of the main recommendations was for government to
look into developing a National Social Assistance Policy.
The Cook Islands National Social Assistance Policy’s
objectives are to:
Decrease poverty and hardship,
Enhance the wellbeing of children, women
Ensure adequacy and sustainability of
Improve efficiency and effectiveness
within the social assistance systems, and
Strengthen monitoring evaluation and
learning within the social assistance system.
Chynoweth said the aim of the consultations was “to
present and have discussions about the stakeholders’ findings, the consultants’
reviews, what other challenges are and what is missing from the draft, etc”.
Grace Chynoweth, Ministry of Internal Affairs director of Welfare Services. MELINA ETCHES/23061507
“In the draft policy what has been highlighted are the
gaps in the system that we need to look at.”
Some of the inclusions in the national policy are to “decrease
the poverty and hardship” among the vulnerable, the Destitute Benefit is
adjusted to ensure that recipients are receiving more equitable support, social
assistance for persons with disabilities is redesigned to assist in increasing
access to education, more opportunities and participation in society.
To enhance the wellbeing of children, women and
parents, the policy is looking at the age eligibility for the child benefit to
be increased to include 17 -18-year-olds who are still attending school to
ensure adequate support to families to encourage higher rates of education
In the policy a top-up mechanism for the child benefit is being proposed to provide additional support to families for children with disabilities as well as a child care subsidy programme.
Maternity leave allowance is also being proposed to be extended from six weeks to 14 weeks of paid leave for mothers, and paternity leave to two weeks of paid leave for fathers.
“We will not be able to fix all problems, but it will
strengthen the current system,” said Chynoweth.
“We would like to convince government to support these
recommendations and to implement them.”
The policy is planned for the next five years and is
focused on the benefits, on how to improve and developing new initiatives to
address the new challenges.
Chynoweth noted that the biggest issue raised from the
discussions was about the lack of caregivers, which will be addressed in a
different policy – Te Kopu Tangata Matutu.
“We have an aging population and the culture has
“It is becoming a concern for our people that there
are not enough caregiving services here and most families are now living
During consultations the mentality was that all
beneficiaries should be increased, said Chynoweth.
“I believe it’s important that we look at the
priorities, it doesn’t mean we are ignoring others, we are prioritising…”
Internal Affairs is now compiling all the relevant
feedback from the consultations, the ministries and non-government-organisations
In Aitutaki a great turnout of over 60 people attended
the public consultation, however, on Rarotonga there was a dismal turnout at
the two meetings.
Chynoweth said she would like to respectfully
encourage the community to attend public consultations to share their concerns