Over 80 per cent of Jamaica’s neediest are receiving assistance under the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) initiative.
This was disclosed by Consultant to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Professor Godfrey Gibbison, during a forum focused on the Beneficiary Identification Systems (BIS) and Findings of the 2012 Targeting Assessment of the PATH at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston on June 14.
“Last year, there were several different data that were collected…the big take away from the analysis and all the data that we have is that 81 per cent of people on PATH are below the food poverty line. There’s about 19 percent roughly who are above the food poverty line, of that 19 per cent, roughly half of those people are no more than 50 per cent above the poverty line…in other words, they are near poor,” he said.
Professor Gibbison informed that the measure of poverty used is the food poverty line as it precisely measures one’s ability to afford basic caloric needs.
He noted that nationally, 60 per cent of poor applicants who applied for PATH were selected, adding that if individuals were not selected initially, they have the option to reapply.
“The poor is not a homogenous group and there is considerably variation among those people, so if you look at poor people who were accepted for PATH (in some parishes), and rejected for PATH in St. Ann and St. James you will see that there are quite big gaps in the monthly income of the principal earner…There are good reasons why somebody (who may be classified as poor) may apply for the programme and not get selected,” he said.
He encouraged applicants to give the correct answers instead of what they may consider to be the most appropriate answers when applying for the programme.
He said that the study identified that there is a notable proportion of individuals who could qualify for PATH but have never applied based on various reasons. These include: information problems, access problems, attitudinal problems, lack of correct documentation such as TRN and birth certificate.
“People who do not apply tend to live in smaller households; they tend to be more prevalently in urban areas; they tend very often to not have a partner living in the household; it tends to be by large a household that’s male headed,” he said, adding that about 14 per cent of children live in a household with their father and no mother.
The Professor underscored that stigma is not the fundamental reason that persons do not apply for the programme, adding that if this were so “there is not a lot the Ministry or anybody else could do to address those issues.” He added that concerns as it relates to stigma are mostly in the urban areas.
Director of Social Security in the Ministry, Denzil Thorpe, noted that the selection of the eligible beneficiaries is determined by a proxy means test known as the Beneficiary Identification System (BIS).
He said the BIS uses the characteristics of poverty as identified by the Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions and attaches different rates to variables depending on the extent to which they are determined to affect the individual’s poverty status.
“The variable include education levels, housing characteristics, age and ownership of consumer durables, among others, so then we determine a cut off score and that score determines whether or not you qualify,” he said.
He stressed that PATH was never designed to provide benefits for all households below the poverty line, “so the goal of targeting is accuracy, not complete coverage.”
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 in over 130,000 Jamaican families are now registered under the programme.
CONTACT: CHRIS PATTERSON