NATION

Sigatoka Consultations Bring Relief

The Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Rosy Akbar, yesterday brought smiles to faces of the people in Sigatoka during her first official tour. This was after residents applauded
14 Jan 2015 09:25
Sigatoka Consultations Bring Relief
The Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Rosy Akbar (left), during the public consultations in Sigatoka yesterday. Photo: Sheik Dean

The Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Rosy Akbar, yesterday brought smiles to faces of the people in Sigatoka during her first official tour.

This was after residents applauded Ms Akbar’s assurance of assistance coming their way during a public consultation at the St Joan of Arc Parish Hall.

Ms Akbar outlined a number of plans of the ministry and ways the community could play a role in alleviating poverty, child abuse, welfare assistance for the elderly and violence against women and children.

Below is a summary of the public consultations;

Six weeks processing

Residents were elated after Ms Akbar announced that from this year, welfare officers have been given a six-week turnaround time for decisions.

This means any application for assistance should be processed within six weeks which came to effect after a number of flaws were identified by the public to the Minister.

“I have directed all my staff in all districts that there will be, from this year, a six-week cut-off time and they should give you a decision by then on whether the application has been approved or rejected,” Ms Akbar said.

“If the application is rejected, you can call me or the Permanent Secretary directly who will then treat all applications on a case by case basis.

“This year will be different because we cannot continue to show laxity on our part and we should at no point prolong your hardship.”

She said pending applications from 2014 should be processed by the end of the month. Religious groups and NGOs can request for finance

Ms Akbar urged non-government organisations (NGO) and religious groups to request for financial assistance from the ministry to assist the poor and needy in their communities.

This was after questions were raised by the vice-president of the Nadroga/Navosa Counselling and Social Services, Peniasi Vakili.

Mr Vakili said this would not only ease the burden on the ministry, but will be efficient and effective for the people.

“There are no specific provisions in the budget for this however, because social services organisations do a lot of work in communities, the ministry can provide a grant, but applications will be on a case by cases basis,” Ms Akbar said.

Office for Nadroga/Navosa

Ms Akbar said the ministry would look to have an office in the Nadroga/Navosa province to help ease the travelling expense.

“We have visited places where people have said that transport cost is more than what the welfare ministry gives to the recipients.

“This is an issue for us and in some cases we have taken our officers to the recipients to give them assistance.

Income-generating projects

The ministry has set on a roll to identify around 500 families who will be taken off the social welfare benefits and assisted in income-generating projects.

Ms Akbar believes that staying on the ministry’s scheme will not alleviate poverty, but through the income-generating projects, poverty can be alleviated.

“We believe that if we train you, if we assist you and take you off the scheme, then you should be able to earn better for your family.

“So, if you have plans and projects then please discuss it with us because by the end of March, we will identify at least 500 families for income-generating projects.

“Till date we have close to 20,000 families and individuals dependent on the social welfare scheme and we want to help you generate more income for your family,” she said.

Beggars warned

Ms Akbar sent out a stern warning to beggars who use their children for begging.

“We have a task force where if we find children begging on the streets with their parents, we will take the child away.

“We mean business and we have already taken a one-month-old baby last Saturday in Suva and is under our care.”

She said the ministry would not like to see elderly and children begging on the streets and the ministry will render assistance to beggars in anyway possible.

“We have some generational beggars. First it was the grandparents, then the parents and now the children are doing the same. If this continues what kind of a society would we create?” Ms Akbar posed a question to all.

The second consultation is scheduled for today at the Civic Centre in Nadi from 10.30am.

Feedback:  sheik.dean@fijisun.com.fj

 

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