As a country, we must address areas of vulnerability which stymie advancement of people and society.
We believe that our country will do so much better if, in the period ahead, it focuses on the vulnerable and underprivileged in our society, and ensures that there are programmes that address social and income disparities and make persons more resilient to deal with extraordinary burdens in times of crisis.
This can be achieved in two ways. Firstly, through the provision of a safety net for vulnerable groups through temporary support programmes, from which they will transition as their conditions improve. Secondly, we must address inadequate housing, barriers in access to quality health care, lack of education and employment opportunities, and access to capital to undertake business enterprise.
The Social Safety Net is pivotal in protecting the most vulnerable among us.
At present there is a myriad of support systems and grants provided by the Government, details of which can found on the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services’ website at:
200,000 persons currently benefit from these measures up from 135,000 in 2015. In the face of Covid-19, a range of new and enhanced social services, such as income support for persons who lost their jobs food cards and rent relief were introduced at an estimated cost of $500M in 2020, assisting over 100,000 additional individuals, details of which can be found at: https://www.social.gov.tt/3744-2
In addition to current offerings, and Covid-19 support measures, the PNM will introduce new programmes to target specific groups, such as single mothers and fathers, children, and vulnerable youth, to bring immediate and long-term relief.
The PNM will:
- Establish an Integrated Community First Responder System
- Implement a data management system to quickly identify those households, women, children, and single fathers that require support
- Provide support for female-headed and single-father households
- Provide support for elderly women and other vulnerable persons living alone
- Provide mental health support for women and single fathers
- Increased support for male mental health programmes, like the Barbershop Initiative
- Provide safe houses for women with sons over 12
- Provide shelters for displaced men with dependents
- Implement policies which improve the lives of women and children such as the National Policy on Gender and Development and the National Child Policy
- Implement strategies that facilitate and support behavioural change among vulnerable groups
FINANCIAL SUPPORT STRATEGIES
These focus on the delivery of financial resources to bring immediate relief and provide greater coordination in the short, medium, and long-term.
The PNM will:
- Facilitate training and the enhancement of meaningful, long-term employment to facilitate movement away from dependency on welfare
- Support schools and day care facilities and other community facilities
- Fund domestic violence shelters, transitional facilities, and strategies to end gender-based violence
POLICY STRATEGIES: PRIVATE SECTOR PARTNERSHIP
A policy strategy will be the involvement of the private sector and the PNM will focus on the provision of:
- Shelters and safe places for women and children
- An online portal/hotline through which private sector can register various forms of assistance for children in need
- Tax concessions for those who support Children’s Homes and families in need
- Incentives the private sector to engage in philanthropy to develop children and youth
- Incentives for private sector organizations that design systems for work-at-home or reduced work from office, especially for single mothers and single fathers
ACCOUNTABILITY AND EFFICIENCY OF THE INVESTMENT IN SOCIAL SERVICES
Annually, about half of government’s total expenditure is on transfers and subsidies.
The social safety net provides support for a large proportion of vulnerable persons. It is however recognized that persons face problems when accessing social programmes, which arise from different sources, such as inequality, uncertainty, inefficiency, and dependency
To ensure that the social safety net adequately addresses the needs of the vulnerable population and does so in a sustainable manner, it is important that the investment in such programmes yields the intended benefits.
To achieve this, the PNM will create a National Social Services Card System using a Unique e- Identifier that will:
- Develop a national register and tracking system of vulnerable persons or families, with the assistance of FBOs, NGOs and councillors of Regional Corporations, focusing on persons below the poverty line, the chronically unemployed with special emphasis on single parents, the aged, the disabled and the seriously ill.
- Modernize the delivery of services by making use of ICT for consolidation and digital distribution and monitoring of social support programmes.
- Provide financial support aimed at expanding the local production network by ensuring that food cards encourage the use of locally produced goods
- Ensure that participation in social programmes is temporary and graduation becomes a feature of social support programmes
- Develop a register of agencies and individuals supportive of the vulnerable population. This will include businesses that are supportive of the vulnerable and landlords who provide accommodation