Donna Cox

 Social Development Minister Donna Cox

There are cases of financial abuse against the elderly in the form of fraudulent activities related to the encashment of their pension cheques, says Social Development Minister Donna Cox.

She said the Ministry is working with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) to address matters of fraud, whereby older persons are being deprived of their benefits.

In her contribution to the Finance Supplementation and Variation of Appropriation Bill 2021 at yesterday’s Senate sitting, Cox said the Ministry continues to receive numerous complaints from clients, particularly senior citizen pensioners, of lost, stolen and damaged cheques. She said the Ministry’s direct intervention strategy includes the re-introduction of a national campaign on the direct deposit initiative.

Senior citizens’ pension

She said with this system persons who are in receipt of senior citizens’ pension, disability assistance and public assistance would be able to receive their funds directly through their personal bank account.

The Minister said she intends to continue the dialogue with stakeholders and partners on this initiative to ensure that there is significant compliance by all beneficiaries.

She said that given the additional risk Covid-19 poses to older persons, every effort is being made on the Ministry’s part to limit the possibility of exposure to the virus by the older population.

Cox said a number of initiatives are in place that are meant for them to avoid having to come to the Ministry’s offices.

The Ministry, she said, has temporarily suspended the need for pensioners to appear at the offices for the purpose of verifying that they are alive.

Cox said through partnership with iGovTT ttconnect, the Ministry recently launched an automated application process for those who qualify for senior citizens pension, where applications are available for completion online so that older persons move from “inline” to “online”.

She said there is the intent to fully digitalise the social services delivery system, to make it more responsive and multifaceted, thereby creating a one-door policy that would facilitate a substantially improved client experience all around.

Cox said the Ministry also reached out to the banks, TTPost outlets and supermarkets to reserve the first one or two hours of opening especially for senior citizens.

She said at present, they are also reviewing the existing Senior Citizens Pension Act that will seek to modernise this piece of legislation.

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