Debit cards to be given to the poor & vulnerable

However, now that the world is in a modern era of technology and finance, the Government in St. Kitts and Nevis is leading the way, certainly in the Eastern Caribbean, in phasing out the use of the food voucher system to be replaced by a 21st Century model that will see the introduction of bank cards, to be issued by the country’s National Bank.

Minister of Social Development, Marcella Liburd, has disclosed that these changes are coming as St. Kitts and Nevis becomes the first in the OECS to launch a new social protection policy. The policy is part of a social protection strategy and an initiative to reform the old system. Liburd said her Ministry is shifting from individual assistance, to assisting the most vulnerable families, under what is called the MEN program, (Molding, Empowering, Nurturing) and directing families.

Currently there are 21 families involved in what the Minister described as a pilot project.

She explained that a series of legislation has been passed over the last year, as a measure to help protect the most vulnerable in society, including the children, as the Government continues to focus on the development of the country.

Liburd indicated that the main feature of the revamped system is the issuance of National Bank debit cards, which will allow families to purchase basic necessities for their everyday living.

She clarified that since the debit card program is only in its pilot phase, the old voucher system will remain in existence until finally phased out.

The new system is modern and it is also a teaching moment for families and it makes for greater accountability, said Liburd, who added that there are weekly limits on the cards so this helps families to better manage their money. “This is accompanied by training programs for families which would include budgeting, parenting, family planning, health, preparing them for job interviews and lifestyle choices.”

The minister said the program also calls for co-responsibilities on the part of families. For instance, they must ensure that they get their health check-ups and ensure that their children attend school.

Minister Liburd also disclosed that St. Kitts is also the venue for what will be the first meeting of Ministers of Social Development, from 18-19 March, 2014.


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