JIS News

Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Andrew Gallimore has said that the Ministry, through the National Council for Senior Citizens (NCSC), will be refocusing its efforts to help senior citizens maintain a better standard of living.He was speaking at a national consultation on, ‘Survey Results of Older Persons in Selected Communities’, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston on February 27.
The Minister informed that the NCSC would aim to pay much attention to the quality of life that senior citizens enjoy today, and as a result, a very vibrant new Board has been put in place for the Council. “We have had several meetings of the new Board and the NCSC is going to be far more focused and targeted on specific areas. We have decided to review the mandate, to refresh ourselves on what the National Council is supposed to be about,” he added.
Mr. Gallimore said the NCSC would avoid duplicating the efforts of other government agencies. “We have decided to build a very good working relationship with other agencies in government. We are going to give some oversight.we are going to step in as the NCSC and really become a strong advocate and representative for the seniors and their needs, in line with all other government agencies. This is going to eliminate a lot of duplications in functions and bring a business-like efficiency to the delivery of service that you so desperately need,” the State Minister said.
He pointed out that the NCSC would now act as a hub for concerns that need to be addressed on behalf of all seniors islandwide.
“The objective of the Council will be to try and ensure that every senior citizen in this country can live with a degree of dignity. We want to ensure that our seniors can still be active and involved in the building of their communities, because our senior citizens are the foundation,” he added. Mr. Gallimore highlighted the strategies that would be used to get senior citizens more involved in their communities. “We are going to be targeting volunteer programmes to involve our seniors. There are different skills that our seniors have and many of them want to be involved. It will help them to get away from the loneliness and it will help to pass on so much knowledge that our young people don’t have access to now. We’re going to be concentrating on sports programmes, spelling bees, debates, social gatherings of different kinds. (and) wellness programmes at health centres across the island,” he explained. The State Minister reiterated that there would be a national registry of all senior citizens. “That list is going to originate out of the Electoral Office of Jamaica, (EOJ) and I’m urging you to tell every senior citizen to go and get on to the voters’ list. It is the most cost effective way for us to get that registry up and going,” he said.
He pointed out that the information gleaned from the registry would help to target specific persons who need attention, and that through this initiative, they would be registered on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) and they would benefit from the National Health Fund (NHF) and Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme (JADEP), if they are not already benefiting.
Mr. Gallimore also said the registry would help to identify and aid persons who have problems with their living conditions.
The Minister mentioned plans to establish a hotline at the NCSC, which would be a dedicated line, where persons could call and provide the relevant information.
Turning to the issues that came out of the survey, such as lack of money to meet basic expenses, deplorable housing conditions, utility bills, transportation costs and poor health service, he stressed that it was the failure of seniors to plan and make use of the programmes put in place by the government, which has led to many of the problems they are currently facing.
“In my estimation, what we have failed to do as a country and as a people is to plan for retirement and old age. We have not been seizing, as a people, the opportunities that exist. We have a very low percentage of persons who are involved in the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). We have to be proactive. Less than 30 per cent of persons 60 and over in Jamaica are on the NIS. They have made no contribution all the years when they were young. That is why the problem exists,” he said.
He pointed to amendments being made to further assist senior citizens through the PATH programme. “Proposals are being reviewed right now to see how the programme can accommodate even more of our seniors, because we know that there is a problem out there, and we know that there are citizens out there in tremendous need. Recently, amendments were made to the NIS, which is lowering the criteria for people who want to be able to get a pension. This modification is going to result in an additional 10,000 senior citizens being able to get a pension,” he said.
The survey was conducted by HelpAge International (HAI), in eight communities in St. Catherine and Kingston and St. Andrew. HAI is a global network of non-profit organizations, which aim to improve the lives of disadvantaged older persons.

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