Sustaining social protection programmes: Leap on, leap off

BY: Daily Graphic
File photo
File photo

Every government has the responsibility to ensure the well-being of its people — the reason there are social interventions for the less-privileged and the marginalised all over the world.

In Ghana, some of the policy interventions to lift the vulnerable and poor out of poverty and bridge the inequality gap are the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), the school feeding programme, the National Health Insurance Scheme, the capitation grant, free school uniforms and exercise books and labour intensive public works, over which the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection has oversight and monitoring responsibility.

However, the implementation of most of these programmes has been fraught with challenges, mostly because beneficiaries do not thoroughly understand the essence and scope of the programmes.

It, therefore, comes as no surprise that most beneficiaries of these interventions see them as a reward for belonging to the political party in power.

Some also see the tools given out to them to ensure they have livelihoods as gifts, for which reason they do not hesitate to sell off the deep freezers, sewing machines and other working tools they are given and spend the money, thereby making nonsense the plan to take them out of poverty because the seed has been eaten up.

A new study on poverty and vulnerability in the country commissioned by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) confirmed that many Ghanaians equated the benefits they gained from social protection programmes as gifts or favours from the government, instead of as their rights as citizens, a story carried in the Daily Graphic of October 8, 2021 said.

According to the study, most Ghanaians also lacked basic information on existing social protection programmes, including the eligibility criteria, benefit packages and financing arrangements; no wonder some people who do not qualify complain when they are not put on such programmes.

Also, those who have already benefited from such social protection programmes find all means to stay on, even when their time has expired, thereby denying others the opportunity to come on board.

The Daily Graphic believes that this ought not to be so. Consequently, it behoves the implementers of the intervention programmes, to which the citizenry are entitled, to intensify education on these programmes, especially before taking people on board.

The simple rule must be for people on programmes such as LEAP to hop off to let others hop on when they have had their turn, so that the programmes are sustained.

The interventions are not for just a section of the population but all manner of people who qualify, per the criteria of the programmes.

While we laud metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) that re-echo the fact that the working tools given to beneficiaries, such as the physically challenged, among other vulnerable groups, are not to be sold, we also urge entrepreneurs who are given soft loans to either establish or expand existing businesses to be truthful.

They should pay up within the stipulated time frame to enable others to also benefit, so that they leave the poverty bracket.

If we fail to effectively sensitise beneficiaries of intervention programmes, it will come back to haunt all of us by not only letting the taxpayers’ money go down the drain but also pilling on the small successful working class the burden of taking care of the majority who cannot make ends meet.

This is a matter that should concern everyone and we especially urge non-state actors, such as donors and civil society organisations in the social protection space, to intensify advocacy efforts and pile pressure on the government to ensure that we succeed in our intervention programmes by depoliticising them and making them follow internationally accepted standards.