My fellow citizens, nationals and residents.
I greet you this evening to provide an update regarding ongoing reforms to the Poverty Alleviation Programme following the application process of 2022.
At the close of the application process on December 30th 2022, over eleven thousand applications were submitted through the online application portal. Of the total applications received from across St. Kitts and Nevis, 9,094 applications were fully completed and accepted for further review, verification, and processing. A further review of the completed applications revealed that 8,985 applicants were eligible based on the self – reported earnings. Further verification of employment and income status of eligible applicants continues with assistance from the Social Security Board.
The Federal Cabinet has approved the following priority households to receive monthly payment of the $500 PAP cash transfer:
- Households headed by seniors – that is persons 62 years and older who identified themselves as the main applicant for the benefit during the registration period.
- Households headed by persons with disabilities – that is persons who identified themselves as the main applicant and indicated that they have a verifiable disability
- Households with minor children – that is unemployed and employed persons who identified themselves as the main applicant and whose households contain children under the age of 18. Unemployed heads of households with minor children will be prioritized within this category.
The first payment cycle of the Poverty Alleviation Programme commenced on Friday, February 3rd and should be completed by Monday February 06th 2023. Recipients for this first payment are households headed by seniors and persons with disabilities ONLY. All future payments to additional categories of beneficiaries will be made by the last working day of each month inclusive of February 2023.
Additional beneficiaries will be based on the prioritized categories of vulnerable persons, including unemployed heads of households with minor children and then employed heads of households with minor children.
As presented during the 2023 Budget Debate, the Federal Cabinet recognizes the need to reform the PAP, which is being established to help reduce poverty and support vulnerable families to meet their basic needs.
As we review applications and consider options to strengthen the programme’s impact and sustainability as a poverty reduction social protection programme, the following steps are being taken for improvements and sustainability:
- Re-Branding of the Programme:
Since it’s conception, the Poverty Alleviation Programme has operated as monetary handout to individuals without any conditions or requirements to empower beneficiaries or enable self-sufficiency or transition from dependence on state assistance. As this administration works towards building a resilient sustainable island state, it is necessary for us to revise our approach to poverty reduction and re-brand the PAP as a temporary cash transfer programme that provides an income supplement to assist the most vulnerable households.
In light of this clearly defined social development objective, I take this opportunity to inform the public that with immediate effect, the Poverty Alleviation Programme will function as a temporary cash transfer programme for vulnerable households that meet eligibility criteria and standard means testing, which is applied to all social assistance programmes delivered through the Department of Social Services.
Further information about the re-branding of the programme which would include a new name, clearly defined objectives, conditions, and operational plan will be released in the coming months.
Your Labour Government promised you a robust social protection system that is designed to meet the needs of the poor and most vulnerable. To do this, we need programmes that are evidence-based, steeped in best practices and tailored to attain our national objectives. This cannot be achieved with the Poverty Alleviation Programme in its current form.
- Introduction of graduation dates:
To ensure that the resources allocated for this programme are distributed across a wide spread of society, each successful applicant with be allowed to spend six months or a maximum of one year on the programme, based on needs. Conditions for graduation off the program will be identified and determined through the implementation of case management and tracking.
While we aim to enforce strict graduation dates for beneficiaries on the programme, we recognize the need to maintain assistance to our most vulnerable, who may be considered unemployable – that is, certain households headed by seniors and persons with disabilities. We also recognize the need to innovate and create initiatives that help to reduce poverty in more sustainable ways. In addition to re-branding the PAP as a temporary cash transfer income supplement, considerations are being made to increase minimum wage, review and increase social security benefits to pensioners and the disabled, create more jobs and opportunities for entrepreneurship, and diversify the economy to increase employment, productivity and financial independence.
The eligibility criteria for this social assistance programme have been refined to better target those who are most vulnerable. As such, PAP is now targeted to support “households earning less than $3,000 and unable to meet their basic needs.” An evaluation of poverty rates and standard of living in St. Kitts and Nevis indicates that an individual who simply earns less than $3,000 does not equate to vulnerability or an inability to live comfortably. Vulnerability exists when a household is earning less than $3000 and is still not able to meet the basic needs for survival for every person in that household.
As we apply a more comprehensive approach to poverty reduction across the Federation, in addition to refining the eligibility criteria and enforcing graduation dates, the new iteration of this poverty reduction initiative will apply case management whereby the officers of the Department of Social Services will work to assist beneficiaries to resolve challenges to meeting their needs by identifying opportunities and available services to improve their situation and reduce reliance on state welfare.
It is the commitment of this administration to upkeep our responsibility to provide social protection to the most vulnerable in our population while being fiscally prudent and responsible. We seek the public’s understanding, patience and cooperation as we streamline and re-vamp this social assistance programme to cater to those who need it most.
I encourage all who can to follow the Ministry of Social Development and Gender Affairs’ Facebook page where related updates to this message will be posted.
The Ministry also continues to operate the PAP Hotline at 765-5993 and email contact can be made at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May God to bless us all.
Link to Video: https://youtu.be/iTA0FP6qUTw