The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development through the Expanding Social Programme has in a new nationwide arrangement commenced issuance of monthly grants to older persons above 80 years.
The Programme, started in 2010 in 15 district on a pilot basis, had to-date covered only 64 districts.
However, while speaking at this year’s International Women’s Day celebrations in Mbale, President Yoweri Museveni promised that the Programme would be rolled out to cover the entire country.
This promise came to pass on Thursday as the Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, Hon. Frank Tumwebaze presided over the commencement of nationwide payments during an event held at the Kabarole district headquarters.
“In November 2018, the Government of Uganda announced the national roll out of the Senior Citizens Grant. Under this plan, Government is extending the Senior Citizens Grants to all persons who are 80 years and above in all the 135 districts in the country, as long as they are registered with NIRA and have a valid national ID.” Tumwebaze said.
The Minister clarified that all older persons who were already enrolled on the Programme before the national rollout will be kept even if they are not yet 80 years of age.
“The national roll out of the Senior Citizens Grant was an NRM 2016-20 Manifesto Commitment. I am glad that we are delivering on this promise. When the roll out is completed, we will in total reach some 358,420 older persons in all the 135 districts in the country.” He added.
He revealed that although the Ministry had planned to commence payments in March, the arrangement had to be suspended to re-work its delivery mechanisms to ensure that the processes for enrolment, registration and payment comply with the Health Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) imposed after the outbreak of COVID-19.
He emphasised that it’s important that the processes are undertaken without exposing older persons to the risk of contracting Coronavirus.
The beneficiaries receive Shs25,000 (twenty five thousand shillings) each month, with the money intended to provide a social protection safeguard to older persons, those in their care and their households.
In the ongoing round of payments, the beneficiaries are receiving payment for six months (January to June) totalling to Shs150,000.
Evidence from the pilot of this grant shows that the grant contributes to changing lives and livelihoods of recipients.
“With this money, older persons are able to meet basic needs and to access basic services. This way, Government ensures that older persons who now have limited capacity to work are not left to live in destitution and undignified lives.” Tumwebaze revealed.
He commended the Development Partners- UKAID and Irish Aid, for the technical and financial support extended to the Programme since 2010, enabling it to grow into a nationwide facility.
The head Expanding Social Protection Programme at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Mr. Kasaija Stephen said they were allocated a budget of shs 62.88billion this closing financial year while Shs 107 billion has been earmarked in next year’s budget to cater for the increased beneficiaries.
Meanwhile, Centenary Bank has been brought on-board as an additional payment service provider to deliver the grants to older persons.
The general manager commercial banking, Michael Jjingo said they had digitalised the payment process to reduce on the distances beneficiaries have to move to receive their payments. He revealed that once recipients are entered into their system, subsequent payments would be done with minimal physical requirement of the beneficiaries.
He however expressed fear of the challenge anticipated in areas where mobile network is still inadequate and implored Minister Tumwebaze to lobby for the increased coverage in remote areas.
Leaders from the newly enlisted districts of Kamwenge, Kabarole, Ntoroko and Bunyangabu who attended the event commended government for the rollout saying it would save them the many questions querying them why their districts weren’t receiving the older person’s grants.
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