Social safety reform programme to impact all communities

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September 12, 2016

The Government of The Bahamas is committed to ensuring that every Bahamian has access to as many of the critical Government services as possible regardless of their geographic locations, Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie Sharon Griffin told residents of Mayaguana.

This includes the Government’s Social Assistance Programmes which, Mrs. Griffin said, are based on need, not entitlement.

Mrs. Griffin met with residents of Pirate's Well, Abraham’s Bay and Betsy Bay during a Town Meeting, September 9, 2016 held at the Abraham’s Bay High School to provide them with an overview of the many services provided by the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development through the Department of Social Services and to answer questions regarding the Ministry’s Visa Pre-Paid Card Programme and the RISE Programme -- a key component of the Government’s Social Safety Net Reform Programme.

The RISE (Renewing, Inspiring, Sustaining, Empowering.) Programme is the country’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Pogramme that is designed to “break the cycle of generational poverty” amongst Bahamian families.

Its purpose is to strengthen the institutional capacity of the Department of Social Services and to improve targeting through a Proxy Means Test, which is an instrument that ensures those in need are objectively assessed using household variables that are easy to identify and assess (household size, structure of dwelling, health and education).

The reform also calls for implementation of a new payment delivery system for beneficiaries and the installation of a state-of-the-art Management Information System to ensure the smooth processing of requests from registration to payment.

“Ultimately, the reform will ensure that as an agency, we are more responsive, efficient and effective in meeting the needs of those we serve,” Mrs. Griffin said. “Hence, two of our major existing programmes  -- the Food and Uniform Assistance Programmes – have been consolidated into RISE.


Minister of Social Services and Community development, the Hon. Melanie S. Griffin (at podium) addressing residents of Abraham's Bay, Betsy Bay and Pirate's Well during her recent three-day visit to Mayaguana. (BIS Photo/Matt Maura)

“RISE will afford its beneficiaries a cash grant which will give them the flexibility to manage their funds to the optimal benefit of their households,” Mrs. Griffin added.

Eligible householders for the RISE Programme receive training on various aspects of the programme at their enrollment including their roles and responsibilities, the calculation of the RISE payment and compliance benefits.

Householders must sign an agreement before receiving their RISE payment. All approved beneficiaries of the programme must complete the enrollment training in order to be eligible to receive payment.

Minister Griffin said the implementation of the Visa Pre-Paid Card has had a “significant impact” on the delivery of Food Assistance to qualified recipients of the Department of Social Services’ Food Assistance Programme throughout The Bahamas – allowing for greater privacy and more flexibility in their purchases, while speeding up payments to vendors, and getting rid of the food coupon system.

The R.I.S.E. Card will offer clients even greater flexibility as the card’s use has been expanded to include usage at approved food stores, pharmacies, clothing and shoe stores, bookstores and LP Gas vendors.

“It is notable that when we introduced the Prepaid Card for the Food Assistance Programme it was restricted to food vendors only,” Minister Griffin said.

“While the RISE Prepaid Card will have some restrictions, it will allow clients more flexibility with meeting the needs of their households [as] clients in receipt of the RISE Prepaid Card will be able to withdraw a maximum of $50 per month from the Bank of The Bahamas. The balance of the funds on the card can only be used at approved vendors (grocery stores, pharmacies, bookstores, clothing stores, shoe stores and LP Gas vendors),” Minister Griffin added.

Mrs. Griffin told residents that her Ministry has the “awesome responsibility” of ensuring that all islands of The Bahamas have the coverage of Social Services despite any geographic challenges – from the cradle to the grave.

“We have to go wherever Bahamians live and no matter how far-flung those islands are,” Mrs. Griffin said. “It would be much easier if The Bahamas was not an archipelagic nation (spread out over 100,000 square miles of ocean), but no matter where you live, we have the mandate to have a presence,” Mrs. Griffin said.

By Matt Maura

Bahamas Information Services

News date : 09/12/2016    Category : Business

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