Feature

Protecting Our Social Welfare Benefit Recipients

Social welfare department aware of families demanding money from recipients. It will now carry out a recertification programme that will help improve its systems and processes and hopefully rectify the problems that many of the recipients complain to them about.
16 Feb 2020 13:16
Protecting Our Social Welfare Benefit Recipients
Social Welfare Department director Rupeni Fatiaki. Photo: Jennis Naidu

The Social Welfare Department has received many complaints from social welfare assistance beneficiaries about their families demanding money from them.

The Director for Social Welfare Department, Rupeni Fatiaki, said they had cases where the family continued to receive the allowance after the recipients had died.

The insurance scheme implemented by the Government has assisted the department in identifying passed on recipients.

“Now, they are insured under Fiji Care, and so all of our recipients are insured. So now, when they die, the family can claim, the beneficiaries can claim. They can also claim for funeral assistance, which is $1000 and other benefits,” he said.

The insurance scheme was put in place to cover over 31,000 civil servants and over 72,000 social welfare recipients.

With this in place, Mr Fatiaki has said people have been reporting the deaths of these recipients.

“We had a case when the recipient died at 10am and the family came to claim for his death two hours after, at 12pm,” he said.

“We have complaints from the recipients where, unfortunately, their own children, some of them – their grandchildren, have used their money or have demanded money from them.”

The Social Welfare Department is also urging all of its recipients to come forward and fill in new forms so that they continue to benefit from the many social protection schemes.

The department is currently in the process of a recertification programme for all of its schemes.

“The recipients need to come to the office, fill in their forms; once the form is filled, then return it,” he said.

“We are giving them February until July so the forms can be issued. They can come and collect it. It will be the end of the financial year this July and so we will hold all cases that have not returned their forms.”

Screenshot 2020-02-16 at 1.14.26 PM

Why is this happening?

According to Mr Fatiaki, the reason for these concerns involves the modes of payments through which the payment is made and redeemed.

The beneficiaries either get a direct payment to their bank accounts or vouchers, depending on the accessibility and location.

“For those staying in cities and towns, the allowance is deposited directly into their accounts every month. The ones living in the maritime areas don’t have access to the banks and are given vouchers¬¬,” he said.

“These recipients give their social welfare cards to their children, and grandchildren to operate, trusting them to give the cash back to them.

“Unfortunately, in some cases, they take the money and never return the cash to recipients.”

What the department does

In most applications that the department receives, the third party is usually a member of the family.

“Sometimes, when they come to us, in the initial application, they say, I want my daughter or my son to be the third party. We do allow that. Sometimes it is difficult for them to go to the bank,” the director said.

“If that is the case, the department, to simplify things has the photo and bio-data of the recipient on the front, and the approved photo of the third party at the back. And so this is the only person, according to us, who can handle or operate.”

Upon receiving these complaints, the department visits the home and assesses what the actual situation is and who was the person behind the transactions.

“If it is discovered to be true, the ministry visits the family and advises them of the purpose of the assistance,” he said.

“We ask that the person is given what is due and that is how we usually claim and handle these complaints.”

The law

Once the department becomes aware of such cases, it follows a protocol. The law is not involved in the initial stages of the process, unless it is a case of fraud.

“In some cases, they give authorisation to their sons or daughters. The law is only engaged if the allowance is stolen from them,” Mr Fatiaki said.

Why the recertification programme

The entire recertification exercise is part of the department’s reviews that are conducted annually, ensuring assistance is given to those who are deserving.

“This programme also ensures that the assistance to people who have passed on or people have had their circumstances improved, can be cancelled and allocated to other needy people,” Mr Fatiaki said.

“So that is how we do our exercise. And at the same time, we are also looking at how we can improve our system and processes, looking at all the feedback from the communities so that is how we can improve. This programme is carried out every six years; the last one was conducted was in 2013.

Feedbackjennis.naidu@fijisun.com.fj



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