KINGSTON — Director General in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Faith Innerarity, has informed that the selection process for prospective Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) beneficiaries is currently being reviewed, to ensure that the neediest in the society are assisted.
“PATH is continuously being reviewed, the programme is being re-evaluated. For persons who have applied for PATH, if you have not been successful, utilise the appeals mechanism. This is where the social worker makes a visit to your home, they look at your situation and they take into consideration your total environment and not just the variables that are included on the questionnaire,” she said.
Mrs. Innerarity noted that the method used for the beneficiary identification system was introduced to ensure “a transparent, objective system of selecting persons for benefits, where the funds are insufficient to provide benefit to everyone”.
She was speaking at an Age Demands Action (ADA) stakeholders’ conference in commemoration of United Nations International Day of Older Persons, at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, on September 26.
“The number of older persons who are now on PATH is significantly higher than the numbers originally targeted. Recently also, the Ministry received some special funding – a grant- to ensure that more older persons and persons with disabilities are accommodated on PATH. So, the Ministry is mindful of the needs of citizens,” she added.
She noted that analysis has shows that 53 per cent of citizens are not covered by the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) or by PATH, adding that, “it is only 47 per cent of older persons who are receiving NIS or PATH”.
“The ideal situation is that every older person would have access to a pension, whether contributory or non-contributory, and we fully agree with the advocacy by HelpAge International towards a universal social pension. This is something we are in agreement with, that at a particular age, every older person should be in receipt of some benefit. It will take us some time to get there, but this is a policy option which we are examining,” she said.
The Director General said that benefits such as these, among others, are critical in strengthening social policies for citizens who are vulnerable, so that they will have access to some income support.
“We are fully cognizant of the fact that our older persons have made significant contribution to nation building. Senior citizens week was recently launched and this provided an opportunity for us to celebrate seniors,” she said, adding that issues relating to older persons are of utmost importance to the Ministry.
ADA is a global campaign, organised by HelpAge, calling for the protection of older persons’ rights. This campaign is usually held to commemorate the International Day of Older Persons, celebrated on October 1 annually.
HelpAge International helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter