The Government is providing an increase of 47 per cent to the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), in a move to strengthen the country’s social safety net.
This addition of $3.68 billion in the Budget for the 2017/18 financial year, brings to $11.47 billion the total provision for the programme, which targets some of the most vulnerable segments of the population – children zero to 19 years; the adult poor, including the disabled, elderly, pregnant and lactating mothers, and the destitute.
The programme also includes the Steps-to-Work initiative, which targets working-age members of PATH-eligible households for referral to relevant support services, to enable them to seek and retain employment.
Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw, made the announcement in his Budget Debate presentation, titled ‘Journey to Prosperity’, in the House of Representatives on March 9.
He said an increase of $1.75 billion goes to the PATH School Feeding Programme and $1.9 billion to the PATH Cash Grants.
“In pursuing greater fiscal discipline, we have not lost sight of the need to protect the poor and vulnerable in our society. Thus, we will continue in financial year 2017-18 to strengthen the social safety net to ensure that these persons are not left behind,” the Minister emphasised.
Mr. Shaw said the PATH School Feeding Programme will be expanded to increase the number of lunch days and the value of the lunches to the beneficiaries. A total of $4.75 billion has been allocated to the Ministry of Education to provide a hot meal for five days per week and to improve the nutritional content and cost per meal.
This increase of 58 per cent is the largest made to this segment of the programme in recent times, the Minister said.
The allocation to the PATH Conditional Cash Grants will allow the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to provide a 30 per cent increase in the rates to PATH beneficiaries, which will take effect on April 1.
Mr. Shaw further noted that work will be done during the course of the new financial year to review the efficiency and effectiveness of the social safety net; initiate an evaluation of a household’s ability to exit the PATH; and review the impact of the PATH benefits on improving school attendance.
Article by: Denise Dennis
Photo from: www.jis.gov.jm