Wed | Apr 8, 2020

PATH: The beneficiaries’ viewpoint - Mothers grateful for social-protection programmes

Published:Wednesday | March 25, 2020 | 12:15 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

AN UNEMPLOYED mother of six, who requested that her name be withheld, is the head of one of the more than 130,000 families who receive benefit through the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).

“I wasn’t working ‘cause I had a chest problem, and my hand was broken. My hand did keep on swelling and it pain mi sometimes,” the mother said, adding that support from the father of her children was also inconsistent.

“I applied for it [PATH] when one of my sons was at primary school, but I didn’t get through until he was in the last year. Mi have a daughter at high school, and di both a dem get through on it the same time. She start to get [the benefits] when she was at grade seven,” she explained.

SCHOOL ATTENDANCE

Though the programme has not improved her family’s living standards, the school attendance of her children has been trending up.

The family has been receiving money for just over a year, and the amount she receives every two months ranges between $6,900 and $9,000.

The St Catherine mother explained to The Gleaner how she uses the money distributed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, under the social- protection programme, to take care of her three school-age children.

“Normally when I get di money, I put $1,000 on his bus card and use di rest to help out. When it done, dem guh school same way because di likkle one fada, whenever him have it, him give mi money,” she said.

Her health has since improved, but the mother has not been able to secure a job.

A single mother with two children, Paula Jones* has been getting assistance from the government for quite some time.

“Dem time deh, it was di food stamp, and I was on the food stamp until I was removed. I had a next child, and mi hear that mi can go pan di PATH, suh mi sign up wid mi children dem,” Jones recalled.

Before PATH, food stamps were issued to beneficiaries, which were given to shop operators in exchange for goods; however, there were purchase restrictions.

Having had experiences with both social=protection programmes, Jones said she has to be more frugal in her spending of the PATH cash grant she receives every two months, as opposed to every month with the programme’s predecessor.

The mother of five has three children actively registered to receive benefits.

“My daughter guh through high school wid PATH; it help har through college. She don’t quite finish, but she’s working and trying to get back to finish university,” Jones said of her eldest child, who is 24 years old.

The 43-year-old mother added, “My baby now is six months, and she is on PATH through the clinic.”

Jones is employed at a fitness establishment and has a day’s work which she does once a month.

“Yuh cyah sit down and depend pan di PATH to come in every two months, suh mi haffi guh out there guh work fi help maintain mi self, and di kids dem fada help support them,” she shared.

NEEDED THE HELP

Another mother, June Davis*, resides in Tivoli Gardens with her four children, two of whom graduated from the PATH programme when they completed high school.

The 38-year-old has been working at a wholesale outlet for almost three years to sustain her family.

“I applied to PATH because I need financial help. Mi deh pan PATH ‘bout five or six years. A long time mi did sign up fi it, but dem did tek long fi come through wid it. It’s been good, it help out a lot, ‘cause sometimes mi nuh have di lunch money and mi can rely pan PATH fi give dem lunch,” Davis said.

She lauded PATH for their assistance in getting her son into the Jamaican-German Automotive School.

“Dem did start a programme down there and him did go few classes and den him go on a special programme, and dem provide lunch for him and bus fare,” she said.

Beneficiaries who have been on the social-protection programme for more than four years have been required to reapply since 2017.

Davis reapplied in May last year, and the last time she received payment was in October 2019. She explained that the office informed her that they will conduct a home visit to determine if she still qualifies to receive benefits for her children.

*Names changed to protect identity.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com