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Social Development PS shares lessons learned from PAP and build-out of LIFT


by Kevon Browne

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): On June 13, 2024, Minister of Social Service, Hon. Isalean Phillip, held a press conference to officially unveil the changes made to the Livelihood Improvement for Family Transformation (LIFT) social assistance programme and to share the lessons learned from the previous Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP).

The LIFT program is the SKNLP administration’s upgrade to the previous Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP).

Households earning less than EC$3,000 were awarded EC$500 for financial assistance under the PAP. After reviewing the program and several changes, PAP beneficiaries were reduced from 7,400.

One of the most impactful changes is the reduction of the eligibility threshold. The new income threshold, set at a $2,500 gross monthly income, clearly indicates the program’s focus on the most vulnerable families.

Azilla Clarke, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Development and Gender Affairs, lessons learned from the operation of the PAP that led to changes.

“The two most critical ones, earlier the classification was, household, and household was anybody occupying a physical space. Owing to the changing nature of family systems, you actually have persons in the same physical structure that do not all contribute to one dream. They contribute to their own individual subsets of dreams. And so having one investment of $500 into that household was more contentious than supportive.

“That’s why we’ve transitioned now to families. And families [are] both your biological and the ones that you choose to make up. So whoever you choose to be your support system, that is the family unit that you’re registering for LIFT. And it is possible for multiple family units to be whether in the same structure or on the same property area. So those are some of the challenges.

And then, as the minister indicated, the income threshold. The $3,000 was an attempt at the economic indicators. Because we do not manage and affect those as an island state, we import most of our energy costs with all of those outside of our control.

“We’ve now indicated that it will just be tied to and support for those that are minimum wage or less. That is contributing to our definition of who the most vulnerable is. That definition changes both based on the information received in the ministry, statistics from sustainable development, and other indicators. So, as I stated, we look forward to learning more about the experience of the most vulnerable to be able to improve our responsiveness.”

The PS also shared some lessons learned from the build-out of the LIFT.

“Lessons learned in the build-out. A lot of [people] are explaining individual circumstances, which many would feel that we are not sympathetic or empathetic to. Eligibility is solely upon income, not your specific circumstance. Once you are approved for the program, we get to explore that individual circumstance that is causing concern to you. As the minister indicated, budgeting, housing, quality, and rental rates, co-parenting, child maintenance, [and] absence of income sources to households. These are now our opportunities to do the policy and legislative work to be able to close those gaps for more individuals and families.”

To illustrate the other ways in which the Social Development and Gender Affairs ministry can assist people in need, Clark pointed to some of the different programs available.

“I want to take this opportunity also to highlight some of the additional programs for which the ministry is responsible for. Later this month, I think it’s Monday also [June 17], we are launching the school uniform assistance program. And that solely grants assistance to vulnerable parents to receive uniform assistance. We also have medical assistance for children specifically and then all adults. And this is up to a maximum of US $5,000.

“And it is paid to the medical institution to address medical needs, which range as easy as prescription drugs to complicated specialist surgeries and interventions. We also have burial assistance. We target and pay particular attention to prioritise those that are coming from the hospital, the Cardin Home and others who have no family or support to give them a graceful internment.

“That’s our priority, but, of course, it is open to the general public. If you have a purse, because many of us also do not have death insurance, [or] burial assistance. So we need to think about these things as we age because the cost of a burial increases, as does everything else in the society.

“We have shelter services. This, again, is specific for victims and survivors of domestic violence. If you are a victim of domestic violence and you do not have a place to go with yourself and or your children, you can make contact [with] the ministry to be provided safe shelter at some approved shelters we have relationships with.

“And that gives you the safe space to receive the services to not only heal physically but be able to restore yourselves to take up your life independently. And this service, all of them can be added on too. It’s not to say you get one or the other. It is only LIFT where you are not able to be on our food voucher assistance and be on LIFT. That’s the only exception. But all other services you get [depends] on your eligibility for those.

“And as stated for LIFT, you cannot be a recipient of our food voucher assistance program and there. And our food voucher assistance ranges based on the size of your family. It is redeemable at participating supermarkets. No, you do not get cash again to go to the supermarket, but the vendors will know.”

LIFT, as the name suggests, aims to lift families earning under the new threshold out of poverty. Beneficiaries will participate in case management and receive benefits for 9 to 24 months. After this period, an evaluation will be conducted to determine the best course of action for transitioning off the programme, demonstrating the program’s commitment to breaking the cycle of dependency.


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