Persons receiving Public Assistance in St Vincent and the Grenadines may soon benefit from an improvement in that service if a pilot programme currently being conducted by the Ministry of National Mobilization, in conjunction with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (BOSVG) proves successful.
The pilot programme for reloadable cards was launched on Wednesday August 11th 2021, and will be distributed to a range of persons receiving public assistance, in an effort to promote a more convenient and efficient service.
A total of five hundred persons have been selected to be a part of this phase that will see each person being issued specific ATM cards which would allow them access to the electronic service to receive their payments.
This service would have otherwise been delivered through the regular distribution of Public Assistance payments at various stations throughout the island. The roll-out of the project which began on Wednesday saw the Minister of National Mobilization Hon. Dr. Orando Brewster and the Director of Social Services Merrissa Finch-Burke present at the Bank of St. Vincent, Reigate branch to witness the initial process.
Dr Brewster described the project as “historic and ground breaking in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.” He stressed that this step facilitates the transition through the pilot programme. The Social Development Minister noted that over the years a number of issues surrounding cash transactions posed some risks, despite the necessary security details in place.
“The world is getting more modernized and I do not want St. Vincent to be left behind,” said the Minister and added that this initiative makes transactions more accessible and convenient.“It is lifting our services provided as it relates to our social assistance programme throughout the Ministry of National Mobilization and serves to lessen the gatherings in keeping with the Covid-19 protocols,” Minister Brewster said.
Director of Social Services, Merrisa Finch – Burke said the families that were indirectly impacted by the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano, who were obtaining financial assistance prior to the eruptions were targeted. Burke added that these families fall within the indigent margin, where there is little or no employment in the household.
The Director of Social Services said the programme has several dimensions which require families to participate in one workshop session per week for the next three months within their districts. These life skill sessions encompass four components: Coping skills development which include (Financial literacy and or money management, loss and lack of income), parenting education, health and hygiene education and social inclusion education; especially in dealing with people who are physically challenged.
Customer Service Manager, Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Patricia John expressed elation with the initial launch of the pilot project and stated that it allows the bank to increase its digital footprint. John said, “at the end, the goal is to ensure all parties are satisfied with the product,” and ultimately extend the service to the wider public, making it sustainable. The Customer Service Manager revealed that plans are in the pipeline to increase the number of ATM machines available and point of sale merchants. The features on the card mirrors the existing ATM card and is user friendly.