27 September, 2020, 7:47 am Central - 23°C Clouds

Ministry working to avail funds to help additional number of Fijians requiring social welfare assistance

Ministry working to avail funds to help additional number of Fijians requiring social welfare assistance

By Pratika Mala
Friday 11/09/2020
PS for Poverty Alleviation, Jennifer Poole. [image: Australia in Fiji/Facebook]

Permanent Secretary for Poverty Alleviation, Jennifer Poole says the Ministry is working to avail funds to help additional number of Fijians requiring social welfare assistance after the effects of COVID-19.

Poole says the Ministry has undertaken re-certification of their various programs to free up funds that can be used to help the additional number of Fijians who require assistance through their various social programs.

Through the re-certification program, the Ministry also aims to make sure funds are going to those who are needy and they can also free up resources for pending and new applications.

The national poverty rate in Fiji is projected to increase with a worst-case scenario of an additional 115,894 Fijians living below the poverty line according to a recent UN Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of COVID-19 in Fiji.

The impact assessment report is a summary of key findings and policy recommendations made by UNICEF for the 2020/21 National Budget.

The impact assessment on poverty by UNICEF was modelled on scenarios by decreasing income by certain percentages for various risk groups.

Under these scenarios, the UNICEF reports that in the median case scenarios, between 50,453 and 82,694 individuals have fallen into poverty today.

It was stated in the 2017 Census that 247,768 of Fiji's population lived below the poverty line. According to the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, if a household income is less than $209.24 per week, they are considered to be living below the poverty line.

Poole says they will look at the trend over a number of months and will then be able to project how many new applications can be expected.

She adds they will then be able to take the projected figure to the Ministry of Economy to negotiate the budget based on those projections.

She further says the Ministry has received 2,087 new applications for assistance in August, they have re-certified 67,273 cases however there are 9,027 cases yet to be re-certified.

The Ministry has received $14.4 million increase in their current budget allocation. $9.9 million of this increase is through donor support funding from the government of Australia.

The Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation has been allocated $159 million in the 2020-2021 National Budget.

Government has also made $100 million available to make sure every unemployed Fijian is able to access their full relief payments.

Within that allocation, $5 million is dedicated to upskilling or reskilling workers whose old jobs have been lost, but for whom new opportunities await.

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