26 Sep 2012

Forum says Tonga's first benefits for elderly a big help

4:17 am on 26 September 2012

The Civil Society Forum of Tonga says the first of the social benefits being handed out to the elderly in its country will make a big difference in their lives, even though the amount is small.

It says more than 15-hundred people aged 75 and over will receive the benefit for the first time by the end of October.

The Forum's chairperson, Drew Havea, says officials from the National Retirement Fund began handing out the monthly benefit on Friday in Nuku'alofa, and they are now travelling around the islands to distribute it.

He says the amount of 65 pa'anga, or about 37 US dollars, means a lot to elderly people who are dependent on others, because they will now have some choice over their purchases.

Drew Havea says it will also help those who have no one to support them.

"I know three elderly women just in my neighbourhood. They don't have any other people supporting them, and the other three people who live with them are all unemployed, so this is a huge lift to families like that. A loaf of bread probably every morning, a kilogram of sugar."

Drew Havea says he hopes the benefit will eventually increase in size, but that will depend on the economic recovery in Tonga.