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JIS News

Come next month, beneficiaries under the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) in St. Ann and St. James, will be able to access payments through the cash card system.
Director of Social Security and PATH at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Colette Roberts-Risden, told JIS News that the payment system, which is being introduced across the island on a phased basis, is in keeping with the Ministry’s thrust to make it easier and more convenient for beneficiaries to access their payments.
“With a cash card, beneficiaries may go to an ATM (automated teller machine) or point of sale merchant and use the card as opposed to physically going to a post office to collect the cheques,” she explained.
The cash card system was piloted in October 2007 in six post offices in Kingston, St. Catherine and Manchester, and targeted a total of 380 families.
In April this year, the system was expanded to include all beneficiaries in Kingston, as well as Spanish Town, bringing the total number of families able to access benefits using the card to more than 1,000.
The programme was further extended in June to all urban towns in the parishes of St. Catherine, Clarendon and Manchester.
According to Mrs. Roberts-Risden, the system will only be implemented in those areas, where ATMs and point of sale merchants are easily accessible, noting that those beneficiaries in remote areas will continue to receive payments by cheques. “We are introducing it to persons living in the urban areas, because if you live in the deep, rural areas it is more difficult to utilise a cash card, as ATMs and point of sale merchants are not as accessible in the rural areas,” she pointed out.
PATH was established in 2002 to replace three existing social assistance initiatives – outdoor poor relief, food stamp and public assistance programmes. Its main objectives are to increase educational attainment, improve physical health, reduce child labour, reduce poverty and serve as a safety net for the poor and vulnerable.
Families receive cash assistance on the basis that children attend school regularly and all beneficiaries must visit health centres for regular checks. “The government has moved to a programme where we have co-responsibilities from the families, so gone are the days when the government would just provide social assistance. What we are now saying is that the families have to do something in return,” the PATH Director stated.
Beneficiaries receive a payment of $530 every two months. Children who are part of the programme are exempt from paying schools fees and are eligible to receive books under the government’s rental scheme, as well as free lunches under the school feeding programme. Hospital fees are also waived for persons on the programme.
In the meantime, Mrs. Roberts-Risden told JIS News that the Ministry is reviewing the payment structure with a view to increasing payments for students enrolled at the secondary level from grades 9 to 12. “We’re looking at increasing the benefits especially at the upper secondary level, so that is something that should come on stream within the next financial year.right now we are doing the diagnostic work,” she informed.
She informed that the programme, which was implemented through funding from the government of Jamaica and a loan from the World Bank, will be institutionalised by the Ministry and fully funded by the government come 2008.
She noted that PATH was initially slated to be a four-year project, with the project phase to end in June 2006, however as of April 2006, there was a balance of US$15 million on the loan.