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Letter of the Day | Treat PATH programme beneficiaries with dignity

Published:Friday | March 24, 2023 | 12:17 AM


Everyone who cares about people are pleased with the adjustments to payments in the PATH Programme. There is, however, a major problem that has not been mentioned and may not be addressed. That would be unfortunate.

Let me try, in parable form, to convey what I am trying to say: If you give Tom $100 to give Dick who is desperately in need, and half of the money is handed over, weeks later, the solution is not to give Tom $300 to give Dick on the second occasion. Maybe it would be better to select Harry to do the job next time.

What I am trying to say is that the real problem with the PATH programme is the disgracefully poor quality of the service delivery. For example:

1. Having beneficiaries waiting in the sun for money.

2. Telling persons to come to the office regarding matters that can be settled on the phone only to have these persons turn up and the officer is not at work.

3. Stopping payment without notice and without explanation, sometimes for months, then resuming after the beneficiary sacrifices her dignity before the payments resume without an explanation.

4. Promising to visit the home, causing persons to sacrifice a day’s pay to see the officer. Most times the officer does not turn up and there is not even a phone call to explain.

5. The School Feeding Programme carries with it shame and a stigma. So much so that many children prefer to go hungry than be associated with the programme.

6. One single parent has been visiting the PATH office in St Ann – for years – and cannot get on the programme and can get no credible explanation why. Her children are now in high school attending for 3 days weekly, on average, because – single and unemployed – there is nothing available for regular attendance. May I add that these two children have proven to be of well above average intelligence. What a waste. Thanks to PATH.

Does anyone monitor the workers in this programme? How much of what is provided reaches the beneficiaries? PATH does not pay arrears. So when payment stops, mysteriously for five months, then resumes, where do the funds for the missing months go? But isn’t this the way we have always treated the poor in this country?

There no way in which the programme – so badly needed by a sizeable portion of the population – is going to improve if the same cold, heartless, persons continue to be responsible for its administration.