Sun | Apr 22, 2018

Oran Hall | Securing help for orphans from NIS

Published:Sunday | March 12, 2017 | 12:00 AM
The Ministry of Labour and Social Security at National Heroes Circle in Kingston, home of the National Insurance Scheme.

QUESTION: I am writing to you to ask if you could assist me in getting an orphan pension for my sister who is 15 years old. I applied for assistance from she was 14 years old and am yet to get any help.

K. Daley

FINANCIAL ADVISER: The 'Orphan's Benefit' is claimable from the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) by an adult caring for a child who is less than 18 years old and whose parents are dead, whether they were married. It is payable from the date on which the child became an orphan until his/her 18th birthday.

For a child to qualify for this benefit, one of the deceased parents must have satisfied the contribution conditions, including the payment of 52 weekly NIS contributions per year for at least ten years, and was in receipt of an NIS old age, invalidity, widow's or widower's pension.

Application for this benefit must be accompanied by:

1. marriage certificate of the orphan's parents;

2. two letters attesting to the common-law union of the orphan's parents, in the case of a common-law union;

3. birth certificate of each child under 18 years;

4. death certificates or medical certificates of cause of death of both parents;

5. Pension Order Book, if any, belonging to the deceased parent at the time of their death;

6. NIS registration card (pink card) for both parents; and

7. NIS registration card (pink card) for the applicant.

The Orphan's Benefit is paid to the female guardian only for cases in which the orphan is in the care of a couple.

A grant is payable in a lump sum if the minimum contribution conditions for a pension were not satisfied, but at least 52 weekly contributions were made by either of the deceased parents.

An adult caring for a child under 18 may also claim a 'Special Child Benefit' for a child whose mother is dead, but whose father's whereabouts is unknown. This benefit continues until the child's 18th birthday and is based on the mother's contributions only. This benefit is paid only after thorough investigation by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

To deal more specifically with your question, the time between when the application is made and when payment begins can be quite long. Applications are made at a parish office of the NIS, the Corporate Area included. A file is created there and sent to the head office of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security where it passes through several departments, including records, claims and accounting.

If a problem is identified relating to the child's birth certificate or a parent's death certificate, for example, or if information is missing, or a form is not signed or is signed but not notarised, the file is returned to the parish office for corrective action to be taken. If necessary, the parish office may have to seek the assistance of the claimant to rectify the problem.

In such a case, the parish office may make contact with the claimant by telephone, but may go as far as sending a representative to see the claimant in person. Some claims may stagnate, for instance, if the child's birth certificate cannot be found.

What I know about your situation is not enough to help in determining why you have not yet received a payment for your sister, but it could just be a case of the process moving slowly.

My advice is that you make contact with your parish office, where you most likely would have submitted the claim, and ask for an update on what is happening with it. You can make it easier by supplying that office with the pension number, that was generated for the claim when you made it.

- Oran A. Hall, principal author of 'The Handbook of Personal Financial Planning', offers personal financial planning advice and counsel.