The system for paying out bonuses to working pensioners, disabled people, and widows has been simplified after complaints that those entitled were being treated like beggars, Social Policy Minister Michael Farrugia said today.

Addressing a press briefing, Dr Farrugia explained how during a public consultation session earlier this month Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had been approached by a mother who said she was made to feel like a beggar when regularly applying for State bonuses her disabled children were entitled to while working.

“To get this I have to go to the employer and get all the hours worked and then the department and fill in all these different documents. Shouldn’t it be easier? Why should I have to beg?” the mother had said. She added that the bureaucracy also meant that bonuses were paid late.

Dr Farrugia said the government had taken the suggestion on board and changed the system. Those entitled to a State bonus would now only need to inform the social welfare department of how many hours they worked once and the bonuses would now be paid on time.

This was one of several simplification processes that the ministry’s new director of simplification, Anthony Cesare, was implementing. Other improvements included a reform of the application process for non-contributory benefits, which was in the process of being moved online, and doing away with the need to queue up in government departments to file paperwork.

Disabled persons nearing retirement age would also have their old age pension automatically added on to their disability pension at a rate of €5-a-week, doing away with the need to apply.

Dr Farrugia said the ministry would soon be releasing a benefits calculator in the form of a free-to-download app. Expected around the end of this year, the app would do away with the public’s need to enquire at the welfare department to see if they are entitled.

The National Commission for Person’s with Disability was also launching an app, which would map out accessible and inaccessible places across the island.


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