Dr Angela Brown Burke, opposition spokesperson on labour and social security, is renewing her call for the expansion of the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), arguing that, less than a month after the reopening of schools, many parents are finding it difficult to send their children to school.
Brown Burke noted that, in light of a 2021 report which indicated that more than two thirds of the population cannot afford healthy food, provisions should have already been made to cushion the crisis currently facing the nation’s parents and children.
She is therefore calling for the Government to increase the benefit under PATH and make it more accessible to children in need.
“It is important for the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to work together with the Ministry of Education to ensure that support is provided for parents who are struggling to send their children to school,” said Brown Burke.
“Time come to proactively identify the most vulnerable and needy families and ensure that their applications are urgently processed.”
She highlighted that, while the hunger index in 2021 showed that 7.1 per cent of Jamaicans are experiencing severe hunger, that number stood at 23.9 per cent among the most vulnerable.
Brown Burke said she has sent a letter to the Labour Minister Karl Samuda with recommendations for the expansion of PATH, including:
- Restart a public education programme on PATH
- Implement a 10 per cent increase in the present PATH payments, so that the spending power of beneficiaries can be aligned with the national inflation rate over the past year.
- Decrease processing of time for applications so that applicants can be approved within 30 days.
- Provide a written report to the unsuccessful applicant detailing the process used to make the decision and any recourse available.
- Ensure a transparent and speedy appeal process for applicants who have been denied.
In highlighting some of the challenges that applicants face when applying for PATH, Brown Burke said: “We have to ensure that the most needy and deserving persons are placed on the PATH programme, irrespective of their perceived political alignment or that of the community in which they reside.”
She added that tertiary students, in particular those in social work, can be trained and engaged part-time to visit applicants for the inspections which would help to reduce the processing time for applications.