PATH to Pilot Series of Family Workshops in Four Parishes

Beginning July, the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH), will be piloting a series of workshops in four parishes, as part of its initiative to encourage families on the programme to be more cognisant of the various health issues that affect them.
The workshops will be undertaken within a six-month period and will target parents at four health centres in the parishes of St. Catherine, St. Mary, Manchester and Westmoreland. If the pilot is successful, the programme will be extended to other parishes in another year.
Speaking at a JIS ‘Think Tank’ on June 28, Director of Social Security and Project Director for PATH, Colette Roberts-Risden, said that the recommendation for the workshops came out of a study which showed that a number of parents were not complying with the health aspect of the programme, which requires that parents take their children to the health centres for checks twice per year.
“Children below the age of one were required to visit the health centres six times per year, while children between the age of one and six were required to visit the centres twice per year. What we discovered was that over 40 per cent of our beneficiaries (children 1-6), were not attending the health centres,” she said.She noted that findings from a health compliance study undertaken by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security showed that many parents were not taking their children to health centres after age three, as by this age the children would have been fully immunized, and would only return for a booster when they were ready to attend primary school. “What has come out of that study is that we need to look at a series of workshops for parents who have children over the age of maybe instead of the children coming to the health centres, the parents would now be exposed to health issues such as hygiene, sexually transmitted diseases, reproductive health; issues that would affect not just the child, but the family,” she pointed out. Mrs. Roberts-Risden noted however, that a shortage of health personnel has also contributed to the non-compliance rate, as some parents fail to return to the health centre if they did not get through on a previous appointment. “Within our health system there is a shortage of for instance, there is three year-old who is fully immunized, and is very healthy and goes to the clinic for a check up because he/she is a PATH beneficiary.there is one nurse tending to 15 or 20 children who needs to be immunized or are ill…what tends to happen sometimes is that the PATH child is not attended to, because he/she is a healthy child,” she informed.
As such, she noted that a review would be done in this area, and the relevant adjustments made to this aspect of the programme.
Turning to the education aspect of the programme, Mrs. Roberts-Risden said that the rate of non-compliance for beneficiaries attending school currently stands at 15 per cent. “On an average, 14 to 15 per cent of children between the ages of six and 17 are not attending school the required number of times and we want to get this down to a maximum of 10 per cent,” she asserted. In this regard, she said that the social workers would be working more closely with the families who have children, and also with guidance counsellors at the schools. In addition, she said that the Ministry was looking at increasing the cash payment for students in grades 9, 10 and 11, as well as those in sixth form, as compliance checks have revealed that this was the stage where students were most at risk for dropping out of school. “We are looking at providing a higher cash benefit for children who are in upper level school, because we know that this is the age group where children tend to drop out of school,” she noted. Commenting on further improvements in the programme, she said that the Government was undertaking a Welfare to Work initiative, aimed at empowering families to lift themselves out of poverty, through skills training and job placement. “We are going to be working with PATH families, to get them into productive employment. Our focus will be the able bodied members of the family, and the children who are leaving school, to ensure that they continue into further education, skills training or job placement. This is to ensure that they become productive members of the society, so that in time they will no longer need a programme like PATH,” she explained.
The PATH programme was introduced in 2002, and is primarily administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, with the assistance of the Ministries of Health and Education and Youth.
The programme targets poor families, through the disbursement of grants to beneficiaries every two months. Children who are on the programme are exempt from paying school fees at the secondary level, and are also eligible for ‘free’ lunches at their schools.

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