KINGSTON, Jamaica – After 21 years, the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), is about to be overhauled.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Pearnel Charles Jr announced the setting up of a steering committee to guide the process during a statement in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
He said the committee will be supported by two technical working groups.
“Decisions will be made through a consultative process; the steering committee will serve as an advisory committee and will make decisions on the reform process. The committee will be informed by the work of the technical working groups,” Charles Jr said.
He said the steering committee will be made up of representatives from across the government; the ministries of labour and social security; health and wellness; education and youth; and local government and rural development. The Planning Institute of Jamaica as well as the members of the technical working groups will also be represented.
“We will provide timely reports and updates to the Cabinet on the progress of the reform,” the minister said.
He explained that one of the groups will review the design of the PATH, including the selection criteria and the benefit levels, while the other group will review the general roles of the programme, including the conditionalities and the criteria for continued eligibility.
“The revamped PATH programme will place a renewed emphasis on education. We recognise that education is the foundation upon which future opportunities are built,” said Charles Jr while disclosing that the reforms will include increased support for school attendance, access to quality educational resources, and vocational training.
He said all these are “geared towards breaking the cycle of poverty through knowledge and skills development”.
The minister also stated that healthcare will remain a cornerstone of PATH. As such, the reforms will expand the healthcare components to address the evolving health needs of citizens.
Charles Jr informed that at least three regional public consultations will be convened. The consultations will take the format of town hall meetings “to provide an opportunity for all Jamaicans (to participate)”.
The labour and social security minister said the first such meeting will be held by the end of October.
Charles Jr highlighted that the PATH has been referenced by the World Bank as a model for conditional cash transfer programmes and that several countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region and Africa have studied the model.
“As such, an integral part of the reform process will involve consultations with the World Bank and the Ministry of Finance and Public Service,” he said.
He stressed that the reforms will align with the country’s international commitments “and also our projected, sustainable development goals, reinforcing Jamaica’s dedication to achieving a more equitable and prosperous society”.
The PATH is Jamaica's flagship social assistance programme, providing cash grants to approximately 350,000 beneficiaries.