The Destitute and Infirmed Payment is set to increase from $165 a month to $200 a month from 1 July 2016 and the Old Age Pension rate for those aged 70 and over will increase from $650 a month to $660 a month.
The Destitute and Infirmed Payment is a means tested payment targeting working age people, primarily those with high disability needs, who are unable to secure employment. There are approximately 200 people currently receiving this payment.
While the rate is set to increase to $200 a month, the Government has stated an intention to progressively increase the Destitute and Infirmed Payment over time so that there is parity with the Old Age Pension.
The increase to the Destitute and Infirmed Payment was announced as part of the 2016-17 Budget at an additional cost of $92,000 bringing the total cost for the payment to $528,000 in 2016-17.
The increase in the Old Age Pension was originally announced last year and will cost an additional $87,000 bringing the total expected expenditure on the Old Age Pension for those aged 70 and over to $5.8 million in 2016-17. This is in addition to $6.3 million allocated in the 2016-17 Budget for Old Age Pensioners aged from 60 to 69.
Government is pleased to announce that from Tuesday 22 December 2015, all beneficiaries receiving the Old Age Pension, Child Benefit, Infirm and Destitute payments from the Cook Islands Government will receive a $50 Christmas Bonus.
The payment will be made into the Bank of the Cook Islands (BCI) account of each beneficiary from Tuesday onwards. The Christmas Bonus has been paid each year just before Christmas for over 10 years to assist beneficiaries during the busiest period in the Cook Islands.
According to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. Albert Nicholas, “many of our families are facing hardship and at the same time need to make contributions to various family and community events. Government intends to provide assistance to families in this time of need so that the celebration around the birth of Christ is indeed a time of joy”.
The Christmas Bonus was approved by Parliament in the 2015-16 Budget of the Ministry of Internal Affairs with an allocation of $300,000. It is expected that 5,436 beneficiaries on Rarotonga and the Pa Enua will be eligible to receive the $50 Christmas Bonus.
The Minister for Internal Affairs, Hon. Albert Nicholas, has announced that the Government has extended the eligbility for the Funeral Allowance to NZ Super Pensioners who have returned to live in the Cook Islands.
Currently, a funeral assistance grant is only paid on the death of Cook Islands Old Age Pensioners, however, NZ Super Pensioners that have returned to live in the Cook Islands do not receive any funeral allowance from the NZ government or the Cook Islands Government.
“This is an issue that the Government can do something more for our people who receive the NZ Super Pension and choose to return to the Cook Islands for their retirement,” said Minister Nicholas. “These pensioners are expected to pay tax on their retirement income and who also spend that income here in the Cook Islanders.”
The eligbility criteria will require a minimum of 12 months residence by NZ Super Pension recipients at the time of passing in the Cook Islands. The rate of the funeral allowance to NZ Super Pensioners will be set at $1,200, half the rate paid for Cook Islands Old Age Pensioners.
The Funeral Allowance is administered by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and is a non-cash payment (payments are made on presentation of invoices only). Lower rates of funeral assistance grants are also provided for deaths of recipients of the Destitute and Infirmed Payments and the Child Benefit.
Budget 2015/16 – Increased Social Impact Funds to help the most Vulnerable
Minister for Internal Affairs announces increased funding to the Social Impact Fund to help the most vulnerable.
Minister for Internal Affairs, the Honourable Albert Nicholas, outlined that the Government will provide an ongoing annual increase to the Social Impact Fund of $60,000 from 1 July 2015.
Minister Nicholas pointed out the areas of great need. “These funds will be specifically dedicated to assist with the provision of services by NGO’s in the Pa Enua, particularly in the areas of mental health and disabilities.”
Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Bredina Drollet, welcomed the increased resources. Drollet pointed out that whilst there has been a steady increase in the effort to address mental health and disability issues in Rarotonga, there was a need to reach out to communities in the Pa Enua who face the challenges which present in looking after family with disabilities or mental health issues.
The Social Impact Fund is a joint fund supported by the Cook Islands Government and the New Zealand Aid programme. Established in 2012, it provides contestable financial grant funding to nongovernmental organisations for the delivery of services in social priority areas identified by Government including disabilities, women and domestic violence.
Parliament has approved amendments to the Welfare Act 1989 now making it easier for local pensioners seeking reinstatement of their pension if they have lost eligibility for being out of the Cook Islands for more than six months.