R.I.S.E Programme to Tackle Poverty at Its Root

Full implementation of the R.I.S.E. Programme will allow the Government of The Bahamas to address “the root causes” of poverty locally while paving the way towards poverty alleviation and/or reduction through a number of measures.

The R.I.S.E. (Renewing, Inspiring, Sustaining, Empowering) Programme has been in its Pilot Stage for several months now and selected clients of the Department of Social Services, Ministry of Social Services and Community Development have been issued R.I.S.E. Pre-Paid Cards (different from the Visa Pre-Paid Cards currently being utilized by clients of the Department’s Food Assistance Programme).

The R.I.S.E. Programme will allow social services personnel to consolidate a number of their services, while simultaneously introducing an automated system capable of capturing information and processing clients.

The RISE Pre-Paid card will allow clients more flexibility in meeting their household needs as the card’s use has been expanded to include usage at approved food stores, pharmacies, clothing and shoe stores, bookstores and LP gas vendors.

Eligible householders will receive training on various aspects of the programme at their enrollment including their roles and responsibilities, the calculation of the RISE payment and compliance benefits.

Householders must sign an agreement before receiving their RISE payment. All approved beneficiaries of the programme must complete the enrollment training in order to be eligible to receive payment.

Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie Sharon Griffin said the Programme represents a shift that recognizes that while social assistance is required, the opportunity to address some of the root causes that are also prevalent should not be ignored.

“Poverty alleviation and/or reduction, promoting healthy lifestyles, looking at aspects of education such as attendance, grade point averages and even successfully graduating high school, are all indicators that when data is captured and analyzed, shows us the path of a nation – more so, its economic future,” Mrs. Griffin said.

“This shift marks the beginning of a new approach to the delivery of services — one where the transfer of funds is based on set conditions and expectations being met.”

Such conditions include ensuring children’s school attendance is at a minimum of 90 per cent for the school year; students in the programme attending tutoring sessions when their grade point average drops below 2.0; parents attending classes on parenting and nutrition as well as pregnant mothers having to attend prenatal clinics during pregnancy.

Mrs. Griffin said regional social and economic trends impacting the family have necessitated a shift in the way countries operate. She said the introduction of the Visa Pre-Paid Card in November 2014 (a precursor to the R.I.S.E or Conditional Cash Transfer Programme) “has brought a whole new way of life for clients.”

“The elimination of long lines, better management of funds during the course of the month and the elimination of trips to the outreach centres on a monthly basis as the cards are reloaded at the end of each month. Clients feel empowered by this innovation into the delivery of social assistance. The modernization of the delivery of social assistance through the prepaid card has also helped to preserve the dignity of clients as they can no longer be easily identified as recipients of welfare assistance,” Mrs. Griffin added.

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