The Minister of Labour and Social Security has acquired two mobile units, which will be used in promoting the Ministry’s various benefits and services to citizens in rural sections of the island.
The air-conditioned buses, outfitted with office areas, client number tracking system, public address (PA) system, and sanitising stations, were retrofitted at a cost of approximately $25.5 million through funding from the Government and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Michael Lester Henry, who commissioned the units into service during a ceremony at the Ministry’s downtown Kingston offices on Thursday (July 9), told JIS News that they will target underserved communities in rural areas.
“The Ministry will now be able to deliver essential services to citizens in every nook and cranny of the island. The Ministry seeks to move forward in ensuring that we serve all Jamaicans… [so] you won’t see it operating so much in the urban areas,” he said.
“This is an outreach by the Government to persons in deep rural communities; persons with disabilities, who have trouble accessing the services of the Ministry,” he added.
Minister Henry noted that the initiative is a fulfilment of the vision of the late Portfolio Minister, Hon. Shahine Robinson, to increase the Ministry’s engagement with citizens.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Collette Roberts-Risden, told JIS News that the buses will primarily be utilised to promote the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) and the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
“We have found that there are a number of persons who should be receiving PATH benefits and are in need of support from the Government, but for whatever reason they are not on the programme. The buses will be used to get into the deep rural communities to find these persons and get them on PATH,” she pointed out.
She said that the units will better enable the Ministry to reach persons who are not contributing to the NIS.
“There are thousands of persons out there who are not contributing to the NIS. Many of them need to be educated about the benefits and so, the buses will be used to go into the rural communities to find persons and educate them about PATH and NIS,” she told JIS News.
Mrs. Roberts-Risden said that over time, the focus will be placed on other services offered by the Ministry “but right now, we want to get those two critical services closer to the people”.
The mobile units also come equipped with storage cabinets, refrigerators, inverter power supply, mobile tents and first-aid kits.