Social protection is recognized all over the world as a critical element of national development strategies. It is recognized as key to reaching vulnerable, often excluded sections of the population, thereby achieving inclusive, pro-poor, equitable development.
In Uganda, Senior Citizens were the first target group through a Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) Scheme under the Expanding Social Protection Programme. This porgramme was first piloted in two ways of direct income support grants: the Senior Citizens Grants and the Vulnerable Family Grants. The Senior Citizens Grant targeted older persons of 65 years and above (but lowered in the case of more vulnerable Karamojong region to 60 years). This was aimed to enable them to access basic services, and to start income generating activities. The Programme was piloted in 15 districts. The Vulnerable Family Grant on the other hand was paid to poor and vulnerable households that lacked labour capacity.
However, in June 2015, the Ministry of Gender, Labour & Social Development made a decision to phase out the Vulnerable Family Grant based on the lessons learnt in the course of the pilot that showed that the Vulnerable Family Grant was contentious and not well accepted by the community, as was the case with the Senior Citizens Grants. The Vulnerable Family Grant was a household grant (as opposed to the senior Citizen Grant that is an individual grant) and therefore its administration was problematic and not well appreciated by the communities. In some districts, community leaders requested the Ministry to remove the grant and replace it with the Senior Citizen Grant.
Under this programme, sh25, 000 per month was given to a qualifying senior citizen and a total of 123,000 Senior Citizens (65years of age) benefited under this pilot phase in the districts Kyenjojo, Kiboga, Kaberamaido, Moroto, Nakapiripirit, Nebbi, Apac, Katakwi, Kole,Kyegegwa, Napak, Zombo, Kyenkwanzi, Yumbe and Amudat.
Following the successful implementation of the pilot, in August 2015, Government announced a phased national rollout of the Senior Citizens Grant, to an additional 40 districts over the next 5 years. With the 20 new districts last Financial Year 2015/16, subsequently 5 new districts will be added every year till Financial Year 2019/20. The 20 new districts to benefit from the grants are: Kaabong, Abim, Kotido, Koboko, Gulu, Pader, Agago, Lamwo, Amolatar, Pallisa, Amuria, Kween, Namayingo, Mayuge, Kamuli, Kayunga, Nakasongola, Kibaale, Kisoro and Bundibugyo.
In March, 2016, the Ministry of Gender, Labour & Social Development signed a contract with PostBank Uganda as the new Payment Service Provider (PSP) for the Senior Citizens Grants. PostBank Uganda took over the payment service provider role from MTN who had hitherto delivered the grants using MTN Mobile Money.
With the announcement of the roll out, background preparations were made to enable them make the payments to the beneficiaries. They oriented and trained district political and technical leadership on SAGE implementation in the 20 new districts. They also set up and trained the District SAGE Support Teams in the 20 districts. Currently, they are in the process of establishing Regional centres that will support the districts-Technical Support Units (RTSUs) offices.”
Despite the overwhelming demand for the national roll out, the Government shall only implement this programme for senior citizens grants in 40 additional districts in five years. It should be remembered that the number of districts has been growing and as such implementing this programme in only 55 districts is not only unfair but also does not promoted equitable of development.
This blog post is published as part of the Ambassador Series, which presents insights into social protection around the world from the viewpoint of our Ambassadors, a group of international online United Nations Volunteers who support the online knowledge exchange activities, networking and promotion of socialprotection.org.