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Vulnerable face ongoing challenges and difficulties

Saturday 1 July 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Local, National, Outer Islands


Vulnerable face ongoing challenges and difficulties
Member of Parliament, Amuri/Ureia Toa Turia Isamaela says the renovation of a home owned by a vulnerable family in Aitutaki has been completed. 23063014

The renovation of a home owned by a vulnerable family in Aitutaki has been completed but it was not without its frustrations and difficulties with communication breakdowns and red tape.

Member of Parliament, Amuri/Ureia Toa Turia Isamaela said that following a series of disappointments involving officials from government agencies on Aitutaki and Rarotonga, the renovation of a house owned by a vulnerable family had finally been completed.

He said the situation highlighted the difficulties vulnerable people, especially those with disabilities and limited mental abilities on Aitutaki face in dealing with government agencies, who in this case, “failed to respond to the urgency of this family’s situation which could have led to more serious consequences if concerned residents had not responded urgently”.

He said the family in question – a brother and sister in their 60s, were both on infirmed benefits due to their limited mental, social and physical capabilities.

“Their house was in a derelict state and concerns were raised when an 18 –year-old daughter was about to have a baby, and would be returning to the house with barely a roof that was rusty, leaking heavily and falling apart.

“Because of her situation and the fact the mother and child would be returning to an at risk situation, Internal Affairs was contacted about this situation in November 2022 to assess this family’s situation with a view to receiving some assistance and support.”

He said the young lady was referred to Rarotonga Hospital in April 2023 due to health concerns and while there, Internal Affairs was again contacted, only to find there was no referral or request on file for any such assistance.

He said it was through several local volunteers that rallied to assist with what was initially a roof replacement, they discovered the remainder of the house was run down.

Due to the urgency to renovate the house before their daughter’s return, they approached the Island Government for assistance, only to be advised they would not be able to assist until 6 months’ time.

“An approach was then made to a local builder who volunteered his services immediately on realising the urgency of the situation.”

Another approach by the MP to Internal Affairs in May 2023 which confirmed the office in Rarotonga had not received any notification from its Aitutaki office who undertook an assessment two months prior.

“The delay was attributed to awaiting birth certificates to confirm identities of the couple which was never followed up. These were then obtained by the MP himself.”

Isamaela’s concern was that were it not for the goodwill of the community and people who volunteered sponsorship with materials, the scenario could have been much different.

The Secretary for Internal Affairs was contacted for comment.

“The Ministry is familiar with this matter, but do not wish to engage with the media on details relating to our beneficiaries,” Secretary for Internal Affairs Anne Herman said.

Meanwhile, finance for some of the materials was purchased from the brother and sister’s own benefit funds which they had saved, but an account opened at a local hardware store would still need to be paid.

Isamaela thanked those people who gave willingly of their time, the builders, volunteer labour, cooks and sponsors of materials who responded tremendously when realising the plight of the family.

“I do hope that those agencies and their staff  tasked with coordinating such situations in future do what they are paid to do and stop being judgmental or critical of those vulnerable people in our community who need to be treated fairly with dignity and respect,” he said.