By Orville Williams
Following several important adjustments to the country’s Social Protection Act (2020), the Ministry of Social Transformation, Human Resource Development and the Blue Economy, is looking to sensitise members of the public – especially those in need – about a number of updated social protection programmes.
As the title suggests, the Social Protection Act replaced the long-standing Poor Relief Act (1961) in September last year and now supports the less fortunate with food assistance/voucher programmes, funeral grants, a fire victims’ grant, help for the homeless, home help for the elderly, and support for children, the disabled and the indigent.
The ministry announced these components in a media statement yesterday, adding that “more are still to come”, via funding from the United Nations International Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and major support from the government.
According to the Minister responsible for the implementation, Dean Jonas, “changes in the act were made to protect the vulnerable and indigent, [so] it is very critical that our society understands and appreciates the protection needed”.
These programmes, according to the Social Transformation Ministry, differ from those executed under the former Poor Relief Act, which “focused primarily on individuals, with minimal investment in contributory schemes and providing limited social assistance, such as doling out cash to the most impoverished persons to meet their basic needs.”
It insists that “vulnerability is much more than the lack of money” and says the current act “represents what social protection policies and programmes should be, an inclusive approach where everyone is covered and where everyone thrives”.
Along with the programmes, the Ministry reminded that the creation of the Social Protection Board and a Social Protection Commission – to provide essential oversight and promote transparency – is another new component of the act, in keeping with the modernisation of the social protection system.
Both bodies will be responsible for coordinating the functioning of the multi-sectoral social protection systems, covering non-contributory and contributory programmes, labour market planning, and poverty alleviation and planning for the eventual expansion of the Social Protection Programme.