The Full Story
The Ministry of Labour and Social Security is increasing efforts to get more eligible persons to sign up for the Government’s new Social Pension Programme.
The $800-million initiative, launched last July, targets all Jamaican citizens 75 years and older, who are not currently in receipt of a pension (overseas or local) or any other retirement, old-age or disability benefit or regular income, and are not living in a government institutionalised care facility.
Currently, there are 7,800 persons registered under the programme, who are receiving $6,800 every two months, which is credited to their bank account or disbursed via the applicant’s remittance agency of choice (JN Money Services, Bill Express or Paymaster).
Project Director for the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) in the Ministry, Elsa Marks Willis, says that for this financial year, the aim is to increase the number of beneficiaries to 20,000.
“We have a number of advertisements out there inviting persons and providing information. We are partnering with our churches as well, on the ground, to get the information out. Our social workers are in the communities seeking to register persons,” she notes.
The Social Pension Programme will be a major part of the Ministry’s community engagement series during the first quarter of this fiscal year.
“Some time ago, we had this initiative, but because of the coronavirus (COVID-19), we had to scale back. But now we are having some relief or reprieve from the pandemic and so we will be back out into the communities.
“You’ll be hearing a lot more of that in the media to say when we will be in your community, or in your parish, to give you access to all of the programmes of the Ministry and specifically social pension and the PATH programme,” Mrs. Marks Willis says.
To register for this benefit, persons may visit any of the Ministry’s parish offices islandwide. They will be required to complete a social pension application form, accompanied by their Tax Registration Number (TRN), National Insurance Scheme (NIS) card, and proof of age in the form of a birth certificate or a valid passport.
They should also take along a valid identification (ID) such as a driver’s licence, passport or voter’s ID, proof of bank account and any other document that may be required to process the application, for example, proof of citizenship.
The application form can be witnessed and stamped by any of the following: Justice of the Peace (JP), minister of religion, medical practitioner, school principal, bank manager, police officer at the rank of inspector and above or by an appointed civil servant at the director level or above, and ministry, department or agency (MDA).
“Once you have met the requirements in terms of your age and your citizenship, and are not in receipt of any other welfare benefit, then you will become duly registered on the programme to start receiving benefit payments,” Mrs Marks Willis says.
PATH beneficiaries who are 75 years and older, will not need to complete an application. Those persons will be transferred over to the new programme.
The Project Director adds that the Ministry will work closely with Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ), the Registrar General’s Department (RGD), as well as the electoral office, to assist persons in acquiring the necessary documentation.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Marks Willis tells JIS News that the Social Pension Programme is important in providing an income for persons who are not in receipt of any sort of support.
“We’re finding that less than half of the employed labour force currently contribute to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). So, if you don’t have any other options or pension, you can see the impact already when you get to retirement in terms of providing for some of those basic needs that you have,” she points out.
“So, right away, the Social Pension Programme does assist to close that gap in terms of income support. Persons are living longer, and so… this is another step in the direction of ensuring that we have an effective social protection system that can support persons who are most vulnerable, in this case the elderly,” she adds.
Mrs. Marks Willis is advising persons not to apply, if they know that they are not eligible.
“The criteria are clearly set out in the form, and it does indicate that if you give incorrect information or false information, you can be prosecuted for that. But aside from that, administratively, we have put in place a social pension management information system, which has connectivity to the PATH beneficiary management information system and to the national insurance system and is also linked to the Tax Administration of Jamaica,” she points out.
“So, we can do that triangular cross matching of names, TRN, NIS, PATH numbers to see if persons are trying to access more than one benefit,” she adds.
For more information on the Social Pension Programme, persons can call the Security Division of the Ministry at 876-922-8000-9 or visit the nearest parish office.