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PAC: Withholding PATH benefits punishes children

Published:Friday | June 8, 2018 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
Peter Bunting

Members of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have questioned the withholding of benefits for children under the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) if they do not attend school.

The monthly benefit for children under PATH ranges from $1,350 to $2,100 per month. However, if a child does not meet the requirement of attending school for a certain number of days, close to 70 per cent of the money is withheld.

The disclosure of this requirement under the programme irked Manchester Central Member of Parliament (MP) and PAC committee member Peter Bunting, who holds the view that the child is being punished for something over which he has no control.

"I understand the incentivising of the parent to not just want to collect the money without complying, but in a perverse kind of way, we end up punishing the child," argued Bunting at a meeting of the PAC on Tuesday.

Bunting told the committee that he had received complaints from his constituents that the PATH benefit had been cut in cases where students had missed school for days because parents could not afford to send them to school.

"So because they could not afford to send the child to school, you are now punishing the child for the parent being indigent. It just doesn't make any sense to me," he said.

Collette Roberts-Risden, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, admitted that the PATH policy stipulated that if the child attends school the required number of times, "then the child gets the full benefit. If they don't, then a portion of the benefit is withheld".

Marisa Dalrymple Philibert, MP for Trelawny South, said that some PATH beneficiaries in her constituency spent the funds inappropriately on things like hairdos. "I do believe that there has to be a way to let our people understand that we have to get our priorities right."