130,000 more people to benefit from PATH

130,000 more people to benefit from PATH
Children’s Advocate calls for welfare to extend to street children
INGRID BROWN, Observer senior reporter browni@jamaicaobserver.com
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

GOVERNMENT’S recent budgetary allocation of $1 billion to the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) is expected to benefit an additional 130,000 persons this year, however, there is still no provision in place for children outside the formal school system such as those living on the streets to benefit.

This has prompted Children’s Advocate Mary Clarke to call for this welfare service to be extended to street children who are enrolled in programmes offered by a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Clarke raised the issue at the launch of the Social Investment for Children Initiative’s (SICI) newest publication entitled A Review of Economic and Social Investments for Jamaican Children held at the Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston Monday.

Finance Minister Audley Shaw, who was addressing the gathering, said this allocation was made to the programme so as to increase the number of persons who would benefit from it.

However, Clarke requested to know just how those like street children would be incorporated so as to benefit.
Dr Pauline Knight, director of social policy planning and research at the Planning Institute Of Jamaica (PIOJ) and chair of SICI said it is quite a challenge to get non-formal students on the PATH programme, as most of the formal educational programmes they are enrolled in do not last beyond six months to a year.

"It is just too short a time for the application process for them to apply, be processed, accepted and get on the PATH programme before commencing their training," she said.
She said PATH cannot meet all the needs in the welfare system and cannot be expanded to one size fits all.

However, Clarke insists that there are programmes that extend for longer periods such as the Young Men’s Christian Association’s (YMCA) for the children they take off the streets.

In addition, she argued that there are other NGOs which are catering to the needs of children with disabilities in an attempt to fill the gap in services created by a governmental lack.

And Dr Knight, while agreeing that they need to give as much support as possible to these NGOs, said the ability to give more is the problem.

"It all comes back to the issue of expanding the resources made available for children, " she said.
Shaw also admitted that not enough was being invested on children, however, he said his government was hoping to change this in the future.

Meanwhile, Dr Knight said the increased allocation to the PATH programme is expected to yield higher benefits for upper secondary level students and for boys.

"We are targetting the benefits to see more improvements for boys to remain in school, so we will not only add to numbers but will improve how the programme works," she said. The additional 130,000 persons to be added to the programme will increase the total number of PATH beneficiaries to 360,000.

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