- A major development last year was increased benefit levels for the elderly under PATH by some 67 per cent.
- NIS benefits increased by 16⅔ per cent.
- Cabinet approved increases in all categories of pensions, grants and allowances payable under the NIS.
Throughout 2013 the Government provided benefits for the most needy, under its various social protection initiatives, the most significant being the flagship Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), which has already helped to transform the lives of more than 400,000 Jamaicans since its inception in 2002.
PATH CONTINUES TO DELIVER
More than $4 billion was allocated in the 2013/2014 budget for PATH, aimed at delivering benefits through the provision of cash transfers, and interventions geared toward developing human capital in the poorest and most vulnerable groups in the society.
This is in keeping with the Government’s strategic priority for fiscal year 2013/2014, aimed at enhancing social protection for the most vulnerable and providing educational advancement for all citizens.
A major development last year was increased benefit levels for the elderly under PATH by some 67 per cent. The boost in benefits, which took effect on August 15, also saw an increase of 15 per cent for all other categories of beneficiaries.
The Government also placed increased focus on youth PATH beneficiaries, setting aside $100 million to provide scholarships/bursaries for some 1,000 tertiary level students from PATH households across the island, under the PATH Tertiary Bursary intervention.
In November, Labour and Social Security Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with representatives of the 18 institutions, through which the bursaries will be offered.
Students under the programme receive $100,000 each towards tuition fees, boarding costs or book expenses. ‘One-off’ transitional grant payments are made to students in PATH households who are continuing their education after completing secondary school.
Children on PATH are among the top achievers in the Grade Six Achievement Test and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations.
During the year, the administration also sought to increase attendance among PATH students in four high schools in the parish of Clarendon through a Compliance Intervention Strategy (CIS).
The Ministries of Labour and Social Security, and Education, in February, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to undertake a pilot project, dubbed, ‘School Wi Seh’, aimed at reducing non-attendance in the targeted schools of Edwin Allen High, Kemps Hill High, Claude McKay High and Central High, by 10 per cent over a one-year period.
The aim was to empower schools to address the issue of compliance among PATH beneficiaries, by providing them with resources of a maximum of $500,000 to develop and implement localised interventions.
Minister Derrick Kellier in November, hailed the campaign as a success, noting that the achievements under the programme have enabled the initiative to be expanded across the island.
He informed that the programme has been expanded to include 61 schools island-wide and that the Government has implemented a transportation allowance initiative for the 61 institutions. A total of $200 million has been allocated in the 2013/14 budget for this purpose.
PATH benefactors also received assistance with housing during the year, when in March two houses were officially handed over to PATH beneficiaries in Clarendon, which were constructed under the Labour and Social Security Ministry’s Social Housing Project.
The project is a joint initiative between the Ministry and charity organisation, Food for the Poor, which aims to provide some 48 houses to PATH beneficiaries at a cost of $20 million, under a pilot project.
The project is being facilitated under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by both entities, and saw the first two houses being handed over to the beneficiaries in Cornpiece District, Hayes, and Rocky Point, Clarendon.
PATH offers an array of benefits to children from birth to completion of secondary school; senior citizens 60 years and over, who are not in receipt of a pension; persons with disabilities; pregnant and lactating women; and poor adults, between the ages of 18 to 59 years, who are duly registered.
INCREASED NIS BENEFITS
Another of the Government’s social safety net initiatives, National Insurance Scheme (NIS), also continued to deliver and make good on its mandate, with benefits increasing by 16⅔ per cent.
In July, Mr. Kellier informed that Cabinet had approved increases in all categories of pensions, grants and allowances payable under the NIS.
Approximately $1.5 billion was allocated to be paid out to beneficiaries under the NIS with new increases in both contributions and benefits, for 2013.
The benefit increases include old age, sugar worker, invalidity, widow/widower’s pension, and orphan and special child allowances.
Financed through the National Insurance Fund (NIF), the NIS is the main contributory component of the country’s social protection system, providing a minimum guarantee for the majority of workers, especially those who are not participating in occupational pension schemes.
IMPROVING THE LIVES OF THE DISABLED
Further demonstrating the Government’s commitment to promoting the rights of persons with disabilities, through the provision of access to services and other opportunities, aimed at improving their quality of life, the administration in June, signed a grant agreement with the Japanese Government for US$2.9 million to implement the Social and Economic Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities Project.
The project is being funded by the Japan Policy Human Resources Development Grant and implemented through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank).
The main objectives of the project are: to increase the employability and skills development of poor persons with disabilities (ages 18-36); and to improve the service delivery of special education needs to poor children with disabilities between 0-6 years of age.
Under the project, there is the provision of skills training and access to employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, targeting at least 600 persons, 300 of whom should be beneficiaries of PATH.
In addition, the Ministry also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), to refurbish the office of the Early Stimulation Programme (ESP).
Minister Kellier said this project is an attempt to ensure that a programme of inclusion is initiated at the earliest possible opportunity. He explained that the MoU is part of a larger loan with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
This project will see rehabilitation and construction works done to the Early Stimulation Programme Assessment Centre at Hanover Street and Stimulation Plus, the school operated at Ostend Close in Kingston.
The ESP, inclusive of Early Stimulation Plus, is an agency of the Ministry of Labour that has been catering to the needs of disabled children and their families for over 30 years.
Since its inception in 1975, the programme has benefitted approximately 20,000 children across the island with various types of disabilities. Currently, the programme offers centre and community-based services to over 1,241 children.
Further, to enhance its outreach programme to disabled persons across the society, the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD), a programme of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, undertook a series of islandwide registration fairs, which began in July.
As such, an additional 6,500 persons with varying degrees of disabilities have been added to the JCPD’s database. The aim of the fairs was to increase the current number of beneficiaries on the agency’s database to upwards of 50,000.
Services offered by the JCPD include: skills training; job placements; job coaching; housing benefits; the provision of rehabilitation grants for persons interested in starting small businesses; and a bus pass service, at a concessionary rate of $20, on Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses.
Other provisions include: assistive aids; school related assistance; and an economic empowerment grant, provided to persons capable of managing a serious business venture, which ranges from $150,000 up to $400.000, if they are applying for assistance as a group.
The JCPD caters to Jamaicans with various challenges, such as visual and hearing impairments, intellectual disabilities, speech impediment, autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, paraplegia, quadriplegia, hemiplegia and multiple disabilities.