By Spy Uganda
Kampala: It was jubilation and ululations at the Bukomansimbi District headquarters on Thursday as elderly persons in the district received their first payments of the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE).
The payments issued by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development as a component of the Expanding Social Protection Programme, were recently rolled out to cover all the 135 districts in the country and Bukomansimbi is among the new recipient districts.
Under the rollout, each elderly person aged 80 and above is entitled to Shs25,000 every month although actual payments are done every two months amounting to Shs50,000 per recipient.
While presiding over the event at Bukomansimbi, the Minister of State for Youth and Children Affairs, Hon. Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi appreciated the fact that payments were being extended to the senior citizens despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I thank the Covid-19 district Task Force for supporting the Ministry to ensure that payments happen amidst the challenges of COVID 19. Initially we had planned to reach this region in March, but due to the outbreak of the pandemic, the Ministry was forced to revise mechanisms of delivering these payments, bearing in mind that this support is much needed now, more than ever before.” Nakiwala noted.
She revealed that a total of 2,387 elderly persons would receive the payments in Bukomansimbi district with Butenga Sub County having the highest number of beneficiaries at 684.
Bigasa Sub-County has 597 beneficiaries, Kibinge has 575, Kitanda has 389 and Bukomansimbi Town Council has 142 beneficiaries.
The Minister observed that the Senior Citizens Grant is in line with Government’s commitment to ensure that no Ugandan is left behind.
“Evidence from the pilot of this grant shows the money has yielded positive change in the lives and livelihoods of beneficiaries.”
“They have been able to access medical services, hire labour to work in their gardens, pay school fees for the grandchildren, some have even been able to start up small businesses and others, saving schemes (group savings). This way, Government ensures that older persons who now have limited capacity to work are not left to live in hardship.” The Minister said.
She commended President Yoweri Museveni for fulfilling his pledge to rollout the SAGE programme across the country and increasing its budget from Shs62.88billion in the just concluded Financial Year to Shs107 billion in the year 2020/2021.
The Minister hailed UKAID and Irish Aid for the support extended to the Ministry in running the Programme.
The Head of Expanding Social Protection Programme, Stephen Kasaija, who represented the Permanent Secretary, encouraged elderly persons of 80 years to ensure that they are registered by the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) since the payment lists are drawn from the NIRA registers.
“I would therefore encourage all leaders- especially the Older Person’s Councils, to sensitize and mobilse older persons to register with NIRA so that we do away with the key technical issues regarding the Programme.” Kasaija noted.
He said the Programme is aware that there are many older persons who are currently not registered with NIRA for different reasons including logistical and health among others and called on the local leaders to support the older persons get registered.
He clarified that for older persons with mobility challenges, the Programme has a provision for alternative recipients who are allowed to receive the money on their behalf.
“These are persons who are trusted and nominated by the older persons themselves, and once enrolled; they can receive the money on behalf of the older persons.” Kasaija added.
He therefore called on local leaders to sensitize the older persons to take advantage of the alternative recipient provision to make it easy for them to access their grants.
“We shouldn’t be seeing older persons being carried on wheelbarrows and some crawling to go to the pay points when we have a system in place specifically designed to remedy such challenges,” Kasaija noted.
“We would like older persons to receive this money, but in dignified ways,” he added.
The Manager, Centenary Bank Sembabule branch, Joseph Katende, offered assurance that they would use digital systems that would make it easy for older persons to receive their payments.