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Social Development Ministry working to decrease dependence on PAP


by Kevon Browne

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): In an effort to inform the public about the revamped operations of the Poverty Alleviation Program (PAP), Minister of Social Development & Gender Affairs, Youth Empowerment, Ageing & Disabilities, Hon. Isalean Phillip appeared on WINN’s Island Tea to address some concerns shared by the general public.

The program that gave people who qualified a monthly $500 stipend was under heavy scrutiny when the new administration indicated that it would be revamped and relaunched to include a graduation process.

“We’ve now tried to develop and evolve the program so it really does help to empower persons and remove them from the level of dependency, which I believe people would agree that we don’t want so much dependency on the state. With the graduation, it’s really about revaluation. So we reevaluate your situation and your case… So, for example, there will be some persons who may be deceased; we can’t keep paying those persons… there may be some persons who started unemployed and are now employed where you were getting zero before; now you’re getting minimum wage, that leaves space for somebody else who may be unemployed to be able to get. So it’s a matter of revaluation, and we’re really piloting and instituting the case management approach so that we can actually produce and provide that revaluation.” – Minister of Social Development, Hon. Isalean Phillip.

As of the end of June, 5,361 households in the Federation receive PAP payments, all of which, according to the qualifying criteria, make less than $3,000 a month.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Development, Azilla Clarke, emphasised that the graduation process within the program was necessary as a social assistance program such as PAP can only operate if there is a weening off the program for participants.

“It is short term. It is not sustainable for a state to maintain an individual infinitum; there must always be a process where [one graduate], as I colloquially say, you need to give life a try. We’re all giving it a try. It’s not a perfect try, but we’re giving it a try. So when persons would have had the opportunity to reapply or apply for the first time as of the end of December of last year, then we took the population based on the priority areas that Cabinet identified; then we started. Our seniors and disabled and managed by our Ageing and Disabilities Unit because they have different modes for graduation; it’s not expected to because their underlying issues are where some of the challenges are – they don’t have social security pensions. Their health costs are exorbitant, and many of them do not have family support. So these are some of the issues.”

After assessing how the program was running, the PS noted some of the issues being observed as it relates to the households within the program.

“We’re finally able to look at a population – I think at the end of the PAP payment in last December, it was roughly like 7,500 payments were made – I can’t say households because we had some duplication, but 7,500 payments were being made. So now we had a chance to look at what that is because without information, you can’t plan, and you can’t improve. And we’ve seen that keeping a person on a program for six, seven years and months is not feasible because, without information, they keep making the same decisions that [lead] them in that predicament. So now having an opportunity to look at the employed and unemployed with children – because children, of course, are one of our most vulnerable populations – we’ve started to see some issues within their child maintenance, [and] family support, we no longer have villages supporting children. You have unemployment; of course, we’re in the COVID recovery. You have a lot of persons that are interested in self-employment but have never visited the Ministry of Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship; you have persons seeking homes.”

With the new iteration of the program, the Ministry of Social Development is asking the people who are on the program about their goals (professional, educational, developmental, financial) to figure out how best to put individuals on the PAP on a clear path to graduating from government dependence to achieving their goals.

“With that information now, we make connections with the entities in the public and private [sectors] to be able to help them. We need to be able to create a financial literacy budgeting curriculum. Previously we used to have the business of you pay your bills first, you [fill] your fridge and then you entertain. We have to know what your struggles are for the state to respond because just giving you money does not work. One of the sessions [we saw was] a session in the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). So had the top three needs of [the] populations [we are serving now] – employment, small business entrepreneurship and housing. So we’ve been able to make contacts with these ministries in order to do small development sessions with them.”

Clarke continued, “Housing is a little tricky because anybody that owns a home [knows] buying the home is the first part of the disaster. Maintaining it is where the money comes in – insurance and all those kinds of things, but we encourage person to have those goals. So in keeping with NHC’s pledge for smart home building in the coming months and years, we’ve been able to be able to make a thing where they [people] get information on it. How do you prepare yourself to become a homeowner? Because remember, there are fees that come with that, not just paying [for the] land. There are fees that come with that – connecting your electricity, your water, your insurance. So you start people saving for that goal. That used to be intrinsic.”

The PS shared that through her work in Social Development, she has observed that people have ideas; however, where we fall short is finding a way to make those ideas profitable, and through the new iteration of the PAP, the government is working on helping program participants understand, through workshops and consultations, the options available to them and how to make those ideas a business.


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