Letter of the Day | Gov’t must address concerns with PATH
THE EDITOR, Madam:
Jamaica’s Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) is a crucial social safety net that aims to provide financial assistance to the country’s most vulnerable citizens. Since its inception, the programme has made significant strides in alleviating poverty, improving access to healthcare, and enhancing educational opportunities for countless Jamaicans.
However, it is essential to critically evaluate the programme periodically to ensure the policy objectives remain relevant. Currently, there are concerns relating to the criteria to access PATH as well as discrimination of beneficiaries.
The current criteria for accessing the PATH programme are based on a means test that considers household income, family size and the vulnerability of the applicant. While these criteria are generally sound, there is a growing recognition that they do not adequately capture the full extent of poverty and vulnerability within the Jamaican population. In some cases, some persons who are really in need of the assistance are unable to access the help, while others who are able to survive independently of the programme are beneficiaries.
The economic condition of Jamaica is not static. It is therefore important to periodically reassess the criteria to ensure that the programme responds to changing economic circumstances, inflation and the cost of living and to make appropriate adjustments to reflect an acceptable aid. Since the inception of PATH, there is little to no reform to its policy structure.
The Government should also seek to explore options of expanding the scope of PATH to consider essential services such as housing assistance, job training and childcare support.
ADDRESSING DISCRIMINATION IN SCHOOLS
In many of our schools today, students who are on the PATH programme face discrimination, stigmatisation and limited opportunities of advancement, which undermines the goal of providing equal access to quality education. This discrimination does not only come from other students but from staff members. These students are often given inferior meals and the meals are packaged in a different way which informs all that they are beneficiaries of the programme.
The Government needs to establish clear anti-discrimination policies that explicitly prohibit any form of discrimination against PATH beneficiaries and other marginalised students. In addition, the Government must seek to put in place mechanisms to help schools foster empathy, and equity; creating a more inclusive environment for all students.
By taking these steps, the Government can ensure that the PATH programme fulfils its mission of advancing health and education of the most vulnerable among us.
AMORKARD T. BROWN
Junior Spokesman on Labour
& Social Security