The Ministry of Labour and Social Security remains resolute in its quest to eliminate all forms of stigma and discrimination related to the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).
Director of Social Security in the Ministry, Denzil Thorpe, said campaigns are being devised to illustrate the positive sides of the programme to Jamaicans.
“The stigma is normally based on negative perception, so we have actually been having programmes that actually speak to the positive effects of being on PATH,” he said at a recent forum on PATH held at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston.
According to Mr. Thorpe, children on PATH are among the top achievers in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations.
As such, an awards ceremony and scholarship initiative was introduced on the 10th anniversary of PATH last year, to highlight the achievements of students, who are on the programme.
“These children have been telling their stories saying that it is because of the assistance they receive on PATH that they were able to stay in school and they succeeded,” Mr. Thorpe pointed out.
He said the Ministry is also working closely with schools to ensure that beneficiaries on the school feeding aspect of the programme are not treated differently. Every child on PATH is eligible to receive a free lunch in all Government educational institutions.
“We are working with the schools to try to ensure that there is no stigma attached based on being a PATH beneficiary and being able to access school feeding. We are not saying that these are the PATH beneficiaries as against everybody else, because sometimes that is where the stigma comes in,” Mr. Thorpe noted.
Some of the benefits for families on PATH include: 100 per cent school fee assistance for all students attending secondary-level schools; free access to the Government book rental scheme; free medical care in Government facilities for registered beneficiaries; referral to other agencies for benefits not directly administered by PATH; and access to training and business grants for working age family members under Steps-to-Work.
PATH is aimed at delivering benefits by way of cash grants to the poorest and most vulnerable persons in the society.
More than 390,000 persons are now registered under the programme, which has significantly improved the quality of life for its clients.
Contact: Chris Patterson