KINGSTON — The number of Jamaicans accessing benefits under the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), has increased by 18 per cent since last year, as the Government continues to provide for the most vulnerable groups in the society.
Labour and Social Security Minister, Hon. Pearnel Charles, said that 371,000 persons currently access benefits under PATH, inclusive of the Steps-to-Work programme, and emergency, rehabilitation, and funeral grants.
“We have (issued) 228 post secondary grants to children, who have passed through the PATH, and we have decided that we are not going to sustain them in poverty and we’re going to assist them to move on; some to schools, some to other projects. (We have) 3,308 persons on the Steps-to-Work programme, and it means step out to work, step out of poverty, get on your own, do your own thing,” he stated.
The Minister was speaking on Tuesday May 3 at the opening of the Public Assistance Department's (PAD) new parish office for Kingston and St. Andrew at 108 Harbour Street, downtown.
He commended the Ministry’s staff for the courtesy and professionalism, which they continue to display in the administration of the programme and the delivery of services to clients. He also thanked the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for extending assistance to finance the programme’s activities.
“We couldn’t do it without the IDB helping the people of Jamaica in this, what we…consider the greatest social safety net, (for) the protection of the poor of this country. We are proud of it,” he said.
The PAD office, which provides a range of social services to some 180,000 beneficiaries from approximately 48,000 PATH households, moved to its current location some two weeks ago, having outgrown its previous location at the Air Jamaica Building, 72 Harbour Street.
The National Insurance Fund (NIF) acquired and renovated the new location at a cost of approximately $15 million, which it has rented to the Ministry to house the PAD’s operations.
Director of Social Security in the Ministry, Denzil Thorpe, said the opening of the new, spacious office was important in the effective and efficient delivery of social assistance programmes.
“For years…we wanted comfortable surroundings and adequate seating for our clients to ensure that they were served with the privacy, dignity and respect that they deserved, and without having to stand in long lines.
“I’m happy that we have moved to this location, where we can offer these services to our clients in a more comfortable environment, which is going to be more conducive to them receiving the services and for us as we deliver them,” he stated.
He told JIS News that the Ministry is in the process of relocating the Portland and Hanover parish offices, which have also outgrown their current locations.
In his remarks, IDB Representative in Jamaica, Ancile Brewster, said the opening of the new office represents a “very important step” by the Government in its advancement of social safety net initiatives, adding that the funding agency is “heartened’ by it.
“It is one of the key aspects of the support that we have provided to the Government of approximately US$15 million, most of which has gone to support these programmes for beneficiaries of PATH. I’m very impressed with the surroundings… it exudes professionalism. It also exudes a certain amount of ambience, which suggests that, while they (clients) are receiving support, and still can be dignified in doing so,” Mr. Brewster said.
The Ministry received some US$80,000, allocated from a US$15 million loan, which the Government secured from the IDB in 2009 to assist with social protection, in the face of rising food prices.
The funds were channelled into strengthening the Ministry’s institutional framework, which include the installation of networking capability and procurement of furniture for the PAD. The facility is staffed by approximately 40 employees.
By DOUGLAS McINTOSH, JIS Reporter