Cash Grants To Help Break Poverty Cycle
NASSAU, The Bahamas — The introduction of the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme will not only help to promote human capital development in The Bahamas, but also help to break the cycle of poverty locally, Minister of Social Services and Community Development, Melanie Griffin said.
This is especially true for Bahamian families who have been receiving welfare for “up to second and third generations.”
The Conditional Cash Transfer Programme (CCT) is a component of the Government’s Social Safety Net Reform Project that when combined, will “modernise the delivery of social services in The Bahamas.”
The Cash Transfer Programme targets the poor, provides a cash grant and requires households to comply with health and education conditions primarily on the part of children in the household. The main features of the CCT are as follows:
a single cash grant to replace various assistance programmes;
a Proxy Means Test (PMT) administered by way of a Management Information System (MIS) will determine the eligibility of each applicant based on a pre-determined score;
the MIS generates a list of beneficiaries who have met the criteria and are eligible to receive the benefit;
contributes to long-term growth and development through a better educated and healthier population.
All eligible households will be granted a monthly base amount without conditions. However, ‘Add on’ payments will be made to households with children – provided the health and education conditions are met on a monthly basis.
“Additionally, special one-time incentive payments could be made under certain conditions. The IDB will provide a suggested table of transfers for use as a guide. The options for the delivery of transfers include electronic cards, cellular phones or checks/cash,” Mrs. Griffin said.
“The utilisation of electronic cards is recommended but consideration could be given to a Pilot to determine the suitability for the use of cellular phones. This method for transfers is utilised in a number of countries reportedly with much success,” Mrs. Griffin added.
Applications for assistance are currently completed by hand by social workers who also conduct home visits to verify conditions after which the application is submitted for approval.
“There is no doubt that the current process for delivery of social assistance is very labour intensive and highly subjective,” Mrs. Griffin said. “The steps include making a manual application for assistance, a home visit conducted by a social worker who completes a report and advances a recommendation in respect to the application.
“The file with the report and supporting documents are submitted through a chain of command for a decision which could be to the level of the Director depending on the type of assistance requested. The time from application to approval could take up to eight weeks. There are no conditions attached to the receipt of assistance.”
Utilising the more modern CCT, the application is completed electronically, and upon completion, the MIS determines eligibility and persons are informed immediately of the outcome. If eligible, a home visit is made to verify the information after which the person is enrolled in the programme. The application and verification process could be done by trained case-aides thereby freeing social workers to engage in casework services.
The programme also establishes a right of appeal. Persons unable to pass the Proxy Means Test will be able to have their applications reviewed by an Appeals Board. Persons whose applications miss the qualifying threshold by a designed amount will be automatically reviewed but anyone whose application is rejected can request a review. The decision of the Appeals Board would be final.
“We are on the verge of a real breakthrough in our social safety net system which we believe will bring social services into the 21st century and see a country where all citizens are economically empowered to provide for themselves and their families and have equal opportunity to access services that will enhance the basic quality of life for all,” Mrs. Griffin added.
By Matt Maura
Bahamas Information Services