Tue | Sep 28, 2021

Social Pension Programme to benefit senior citizens

Published:Monday | August 2, 2021 | 12:05 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) and Minister of Labour and Social Security Karl Samuda unveil the logo for the Government’s newly launched $800-million Social Pension Programme, during a virtual ceremony from Jamaica House last Friday.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (left) and Minister of Labour and Social Security Karl Samuda unveil the logo for the Government’s newly launched $800-million Social Pension Programme, during a virtual ceremony from Jamaica House last Friday.

Jamaican senior citizens age 75 years and older received their first monthly payout of $3,400 under the new Social Pension Programme on July 22.

Some $800 million has been allocated in this fiscal year to implement the programme, which targets seniors who are not in receipt of a pension, disability benefit or other retirement income.

Additionally, beneficiaries must not be residing in a government institutional care facility.

Those who are 75 years and older and currently the beneficiaries of the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), will be transitioned to the Social Pension Programme.

PAYMENT EXTENSION

During last Friday’s virtual launch, Minister of Labour and Social Security Karl Samuda said payment was extended to just over 2,000 seniors.

Next month, he said, the pension programme is targeting to reach between 8,000 and 10,000 senior citizens.

“We are expecting that early next year, we would have through this effort cleaned up the PATH list, so that we know exactly how many recipients are there; we know exactly how to project the funding necessary; and from there, we will then begin to establish even better programmes that will reach out to the poor and the needy,” the minister said.

Samuda informed that some 315 young people were recruited to identify potential beneficiaries across the island and assist them with the application process.

In his keynote address, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the programme is the largest social protection initiative launched by the Government since PATH in 2002.

Holness highlighted that only 47 per cent of the employed population are active contributors to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).

He urged self-employed individuals to make their contributions, as well as employers who have failed to make contributions on behalf of their employees.

The prime minister also reiterated the importance of the National Identification System (NIDS) in the administration of social programmes.

He said each time a programme is set up, a beneficiary identification system has to be created. That database, he said, becomes irrelevant very quickly, if not updated.

“People move; people pass on; people move out of the safety net qualifications; more people come in, but you can only do that standing army once, and not everyone is going to come and register, so you don’t capture everyone,” he said, adding that the prospect of fraud is high as duplicates cannot be identified easily.

EXPANDED REACH

Through the COVID-19 CARE Programme, Holness said the Government has demonstrated that more Jamaicans can be reached digitally, in a shorter time.

“The NIDS will be the basis on which programmes like this will work, by ensuring that the benefit gets to the identified beneficiary. NIDS, it’s on its way and we will be able to track and identify all our seniors and provide them with this social safety net, guaranteed income benefit,” Holness explained.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Collette Roberts-Risden, said the programme has come at a time when many households are seeing a reduction in income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She added that the introduction of a social pension will enable Jamaica to secure the welfare of, and promote a better quality of life for, its elderly population.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com