Ministry of Social Development and Gender Affairs: LIFT designed to do the most good for the most vulnerable

Minister of State in the Ministry of Social Development and Gender Affairs, Isalean Phillip, and Permanent Secretary Azilla Clarke are making it clear that the LIFT, or Livelihood Improvement for Family Transformation, was carefully designed to close loopholes for abuse that existed in its predecessor, PAP, the Poverty Alleviation Programme. 

Last Thursday, both Phillip and Clarke agreed that this move was vital to make the best use of the government’s resources which fund it, while providing relief to the most vulnerable in society.

The PAP was a cash transfer programme that provided $500.00 to households earning less than $3,000.00 per month. According to the Ministry of Finance,  PAP cost the government EC$3.7 million monthly and benefitted approximately 7,400 people registered to the programme.

Under the LIFT, which went live on 17th June, 2024 at 9am, the income threshold has been lowered to $2500.00, however benefits have increased to $600.00 monthly.

Senator Phillip said the $2,500.00 threshold, “…better targets those who earn the least and are subject to more indicators of poverty.”

She also explained the thought process that went into designing LIFT.

“We are seeking to target persons who are more vulnerable, so those who earn the least. We have to bring the threshold in line with what the new minimum wage is expected to be, which is $2,000.00, after the second increase next year. As St. Kitts and Nevis has the highest minimum wage in the region, we are working towards ensuring that persons who earn minimum wage are able to meet their basic needs,” Phillip said.

Permanent Secretary Clarke added that unlike PAP, the LIFT initiative will also seek to improve the lives of beneficiaries by providing them with the tools to better their circumstances over the two year period each family or individual will benefit from the programme. 

Last week at a press conference announcing the launch of LIFT this week, it was noted that a case management approach will now be taken to ensure beneficiaries are connected with ”essential information, services, and opportunities” that will allow them to become more independent and realise their full potential.

Clarke further explained that while PAP certainly placed money into homes across the country, it was difficult to accurately measure the tangible good that financial injection had done.

“PAP was launched in December 2017 through to December 2023. That is six years. A person who has been on PAP for any year received $6,000 in direct cash investment to their home. A person who has been on PAP for the last six years has received a grand total of $36,000 invested into their household. Our challenge is identifying the individual and national indicators that show that the funds have been used to change circumstances,” she said.

LIFT will also work closely with the Social Security office as part of the screening process to ensure that the most vulnerable applicants get access to support. 

While every applicant may not find placement on LIFT, Senator Phillip noted that the government also provides several other social support initiatives which can be accessed to help with medical and educational support, food vouchers, shelter services and burial assistance.

The minister of state added that the government will continue to pursue initiatives that boost agricultural production and lower energy production costs, which will factor into reducing the cost of living and improving the quality of life. 

New applications for the LIFT can be submitted online at Individuals with limited access to the internet can also visit the Department of Social Development and Gender Affairs’ administration office on Victoria Road. Senior citizens can open applications by calling the Seniors Services Unit at 665-3983 and persons with disabilities are encouraged to call the Disabilities Unit at 665-3984.

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