By Matt Maura
Bahamas Information Services
NASSAU, The Bahamas – More than 1,000 additional Bahamian families who have been certified eligible to receive food assistance under the auspices of the Department of Social Services were able to utilize Re-loadable Pre-Paid Cards instead of paper coupons to obtain food items as of Friday, March 27, 2015.
That brought the number of persons utilizing the Pre-Paid Visa Cards to almost 3,000 since its launch less than five months ago.
The introduction of the re-loadable Pre-paid Visa Card (November 2014) is the first phase of the Government of The Bahamas’ Social Safety Net Programme, which is scheduled to be rolled out in the next few months under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development and the Department of Social Services.
The reform of the Social Safety Net Programme is intended to modernize the entire social assistance delivery machinery and will include what is known as a Conditional Cash Transfer programme. Used in many countries around the world and the region, the CCT Programme is designed to modify human behaviour based on certain conditions which families must meet in order to receive what is called “add-ons” to the base for which they qualify.
It is a consolidation of several assistance programmes into one lump sum of monies (via the Pre-Paid Card) to the family to assist in meetings their needs.
Clients of the Robinson Road Centre were the latest recipients of 1,078 cards. Those cards went live Friday. Currently, the Fox Hill Centre has 823 persons on the Pre-Paid card while the Wulff Road Centre has 741 bringing the total to 2,642. The process at the Robinson Road Centre is not yet complete and it is expected that the balance of persons who have qualified for the card from that centre will be added at the end of April.
Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie Sharon Griffin said staff at the Horseshoe Drive Centre (the only centre yet to complete the full introduction of the card in New Providence) are already laying the groundwork to begin reassessments.
Last week, a team from New Providence traveled to Grand Bahama to commence the groundwork for the introduction of the Pre-Paid Card on that island.
“We are on the move and our work continues as the ultimate intent is, of course, for the card to be utilized throughout The Bahamas in the not-too-distant future,” Mrs. Griffin added.
Minister Griffin said utilization of the Re-loadable Pre-Paid Card has a number of advantages.
“The first and immediate advantage is that persons no longer have to come to the Centre at the end of each month and wait on lines to collect a paper coupon. Secondly, while the paper coupon specifies the food store where it has to be redeemed, the car allows clients to shop around as it can be used at any food store that accepts Pre-Paid cards and thirdly, the full value does not have to be utilized at one time as it allows for purchases to be spread out over the month.
“Then there is privacy with the card so that beneficiaries are not readily identified and stigmatized,” Minister Griffin added.
Mrs. Griffin cautioned that there are some restrictions with the utilization of the card.
“The purpose of the card is to ensure that persons have access to food, hence the card can only be used at food stores and I can assure you that it will not work at any other establishment,” Mrs. Griffin added.