By Petronella Sibeene
Namibians have been urged to embrace social welfare services offered by the Government as not every country looks into the plight of its people as Namibia does, the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Alpheus !Naruseb said.
!Naruseb who recently spoke during the ‘awareness campaign of services’ offered by his ministry, said in accordance with the existing acts, the ministry provides social assistance to the aged and people with disabilities, with the only requirements being proof of age for the elderly, while for the disabled, a certification from a state doctor.
He explained: “In many countries, no infrastructure exists to assist the elderly and the vulnerable groups of the society. We can commend ourselves for being able to contribute although not in large quantities.”
He added that many people consider such services provided by the ministry lightly and do not attach much value to them.
The minister explained that prior to independence, the specified grants were paid but the system was characterised by extreme inequalities.
Under the Social Pension Act 37 of 1973, the advantaged groups received N$382.00 while the disadvantaged were given a mere N$55.00 per month.
Four years upon attainment of the country’s independence, the monthly rates were equalized to N$135 for all Namibians of 60 years and older. Two years later, the amount was raised to N$160 and later to N$200 and today pensioners receive N$370 monthly.
There are 146 234 pensioners registered with the ministry. Of these, 1127 125 are old people while 19 109 are people living with disabilities.
The minister said the number of pensioners requires N$649 278 960.00 per annum to effect payment . This excludes pensioners who will apply this year.
Meanwhile, the Funeral Benefit Scheme which was started in 2001 with the objective to provide a simple but decent burial for the elderly and people with disabilities has made a great impact.
According to the minister, 15 596 claims were processed for funerals from 2005 to 2007.
Around 130 000 Namibians with a socially disadvantaged background are said to be listed among the beneficiaries of the scheme that involves the Ministry of Health and Social Services and United Paymasters (UPM).
Most elderly Namibians depend heavily on government grants, since this is their only source of livelihood.
In addition, many old people in Namibia are said to be living with many grandchildren whom they have to feed and clothe on a state pension of N$370.
The disabled also receive a disability grant of N$370 from social welfare. Therefore, the funeral benefit scheme where they get assistance in kind is much appreciated by the thousands of beneficiaries who are registered currently, commented one official from the ministry.
Under the funeral benefit scheme, relatives of a dead pensioner can approach the United Paymaster Company with details of the death certificate. Such information is mainly sent through to the UPM’s headquarters in Windhoek, while officials verify the deceased’s particulars.
Once verified, Government pays for the transport of the deceased’s family and relatives but only within that specific region, covers the costs of 50 copies of the funeral programme and provides N$2 000 for the entire funeral arrangements.
The benefit of N$2 000 does not however include the cost for smaller items like the wreath and cross that are placed on the grave.