DSWD to reform subsidy program for poor families

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/29 November) – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is eyeing some policy and systems changes in the national government’s conditional cash transfer program in a bid to enhance its planned expansion next year to more impoverished areas of the country, especially in Mindanao.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said they are currently studying various strategies to further improve the delivery and monitoring systems of the anti-poverty initiative, which is also known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps.

“We’re currently undertaking a review of the policies and operational guidelines of the program so we can further enhance and improve its delivery. We want to know what were those that we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong and set the specific areas or program components that needed to be strengthened,” she said in a consultation-dialogue with the media on 4Ps implementation.

The media consultation was part of a series of engagements launched by the DSWD with 4Ps stakeholders in the country’s 17 regions.

Soliman, who is also 4Ps national project director, said they have so far consulted the program’s beneficiaries, barangay health workers, day care workers, teachers, provincial governors, city and town mayors, civil society organizations, members of the House of Representatives and officials of the departments of Health, Education and the Interior and Local Government.

4Ps is a poverty reduction and social development strategy of the national government that provides conditional cash grants to “poorest of the poor” households to improve their health, nutrition and education particularly of children aged 0-14 years.

The program provides beneficiaries cash grants of P500 a month for health and nutrition expenses and P300 a month per child for educational expenses. A household with three qualified children could get P1,400 monthly.

The release of the benefits are subject to compliance with the 4Ps conditions such as availing of pre and postnatal care services among pregnant women; preventive check-ups, vaccines and deworming pills among children; sustenance of at least 85 percent school attendance among 3-14 year-old children and attendance to family development sessions of parents and guardians.

Social Welfare Assistant Secretary Parisya Taradji, 4Ps deputy national project director, said among the changes they are considering for next year is the strengthening and improvement of the program’s monitoring mechanisms.

She said they specifically intend to speed up the delisting of “verified” unqualified beneficiaries of the program, which presently stands at 162,401 households.

“On the average, our beneficiaries receive P1,200 of the maximum P1,400 that they can get because of their failure to comply with some of the program’s conditions. We’re aiming to improve on this aspect next year,” Taradji said.

Meantime, from this year’s target of 2.34 million households, the DSWD has set the expansion of 4Ps to 3.04 million households in 2012, which is the fifth phase of its implementation.

The national government earlier increased the program’s budget from P21.19 billion this year to P39.5 billion next year to cope with its planned expansion.

Soliman said they intend to complete the enrollment by next year of the identified “poorest of the poor” households in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the neighboring regions based on the results of the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction or NHTS-PR survey earlier conducted by the agency.

The DSWD is presently processing the enrollment of around 65,000 additional households in the ARMM that were covered by its expansion target of 1.3 million households for this year.

Mindanao’s six regions comprise the bulk of the enrolled 4Ps beneficiaries as of last October 31 with 1,086,280 households or 48.65 percent followed by Luzon with 669,575 households or 29.99 percent and Visayas with 476,984 or 21.36 percent. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)