The Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) is a part of the 5-year Expanding Social Protection Programme (ESP) implemented by the Government of Uganda under the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. It is being piloted in 14 districts around the country, namely-Apac, Kole, Amudat, Moroto, Nakapiripirit, Napak, Kiboga, Kyankwanzi, Kaberamido, Katakwi, Kyegegwa, Kyenjojo, Nebbi and Zombo. As a pilot, SAGE is aimed at generating evidence and testing mechanisms, principles, systems to support the formulation of the social protection policy framework in Uganda, so that social protection is expanded to the whole country. Social protection is about addressing risks and vulnerabilities, to ensure that all people especially the old, people with disabilities, the chronically ill, orphans and widows are able to meet their minimum life needs and achieve their full potential. It is meant to ensure that people are not destitute but they live a more dignified and happier life, by supporting them with grants to access basic health and education services, build secure, sustainable and productive livelihoods, and become more active and productive members of communities. SAGE is implementing two types of grants:
(i) The Senior Citizens Grants and
(ii) The Vulnerable Families Grants (VFGs).
2. What is the Expanding Social Protection Programme ?
The Expanding Social Protection (ESP) Programme is led by the Ministry of Gender, Labour & Social Development, collaborating with the wider Government. The five year programme is funded by DFID, Irish Aid and UNICEF with a budget of UGX 160 billion. The purpose of the Programme is to embed a national social protection system, including Direct Income Support for the poorest and most vulnerable, as a core element of Uganda’s national planning and budgeting processes. The ESP programme is piloting the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) with two instruments: The Senior Citizens Grants (SCGs) and the Vulnerable Family Grants (VFGs). The 5-year Programme is funded by DFID, Irish Aid and UNICEF with a budget of UGX 160 billion. The Government of Uganda is contributing finically to the Programme in cash for Direct Income Support and in kind (valued at UGX 6 billion over 5 years).
3. What is the relationship between ESP, SAGE, Senior Citizens Grant and Vulnerable Family Grants ?
The Senior Citizens Grants (SCGs) and Vulnerable Family Grants (VFGs) are two instruments commonly known as SAGE (Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment). SAGE is the main component of the Expanding Social Protection Programme (ESP) which is a Government of Uganda Programme under the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. The SCGs and the VFGs are examples of Direct Income Support, small, regular payments to vulnerable households or citizens, which form the core of most social protection systems. The SCGs and VFGs are being piloted in 14 districts and are aimed at generating evidence and testing mechanisms and systems to support the formulation of the social protection policy in Uganda and so that one or more of the grants may be expanded to the whole country.
4. Shouldn’t Government focus on creating wealth instead?
Experience from around the world has clearly demonstrated that social protection is a key component of a national wealth creation strategy. Direct Income Support in the form of regular, small transfers of money to vulnerable individuals and households such as the Senior Citizens Grants and the Vulnerable Family Grants ensure that they are able to access government services and development programmes. Such grants also provide a foundation on which vulnerable households start to build productive livelihoods and stop vulnerable households from falling into poverty when they experience certain economic shocks. Vulnerable households need a minimum level of income security before they can begin to prosper.
5. How will government ensure the sustainability of the Senior Citizen’s Grants and Vulnerable Family Grants?
Government carefully considered sustainability before the Programme was approved by Cabinet. The country’s consistent economic growth presents an opportunity for increased government financing of social protection. Government is committed to this programme. In this context, a strong, basic social protection system is entirely affordable and could feasibly be established over the medium term. Government intends to gradually take over financing of this programme from development partners but does recognize the role that development partners will play over the medium term.
6. Won’t beneficiaries waste the money on things like alcohol ?
There is overwhelming evidence from similar programmes across the world (see graph below), including in Africa, that beneficiaries use money from Direct Income Support for purchasing food, accessing health and education services and investing in small business enterprises. It is likely that the trend will be the same for the beneficiaries of our SCGs and the VFGs. Monitoring and evaluation of the Programme, however, will gather information on how beneficiaries use their grants. It is well known that social problems (such as alcoholism) are often, in part, caused by economic pressures. Provision of a basic minimum income can support not only economic, but also social transformation.
7. Will Direct Income Support promote laziness and dependency ?
The two Direct Income Support schemes currently implemented by the Ministry of Gender, Labour & Social Development, have been designed to target individuals and households who are already less able to make a living through work. These include children, older people and people with disabilities.
Existing evidence from other countries shows that poor households benefitting from direct income support grants actually increase their productivity. In South Africa and Mexico households benefitting from the grants were more likely to find employment than households which were not benefiting. Evidence from other similar programmes in Africa has demonstrated that those households also tend to invest in starting small businesses, when they start receiving this regular and predictable support.
8. How can we be sure that the schemes will not be abused ?
The SCGs and VFGs approaches have been chosen as they are more resistant to fraud than other forms of targeting. Both mechanisms will be implemented in a transparent fashion with clear eligibility criteria. A private sector company has been contracted to deliver payments directly to beneficiaries and cutting edge technology is being employed to ensure accountability. A Grievance Mechanism is included in the design and delivery of the programme so that beneficiaries have a clear process to follow to raise their complaints. This grievance mechanism will be highly publicized to ensure that all beneficiaries are aware their rights, obligations and procedures.
9. Who qualifies to benefit from the Grants ?
Both the SCGs and VFGs are intended to specifically target labour-constrained individuals and households (that is, people who are more vulnerability to poverty due to their reduced ability to engage in productive activity). The SCGs go to individuals of 65 years and above. However, the age of eligibility in Karamoja is 60 years in recognition of the lower life expectancy in the region. In lowering the age threshold for Karamoja it is expected that the proportion of households reached by the programme will be similar across all districts. The VFGs, on the other hand, go to households that have been selected through a targeting system which selects households based on the age, sex, disability and orphanhood status of household members. Only 15% of the families in the targeted districts will be enrolled into the VFGs.
It is important to note that the two grants are administered in different sub-counties so that in any one of the sub-counties only one grant will be running and only people who have been resident in the 14 districts for at least one year are eligible.
10. How were the districts selected?
The following districts are covered by the Programme: Amudat, Apac, Kaberamaido, Katakwi, Kiboga, Kole, Kyankwanzi, Kyegegwa, Kyenjojo, Moroto, Nakapiripirit, Napak, Nebbi and Zombo. Initially 8 districts were selected for the pilot. However, the 8 have since given birth to another 6. The selection of the initial 8 districts was based on the following criteria:
• Share of children in the entire population • Share of elderly persons in the entire population
• Share of orphans and vulnerable children in the child population • Share of risky births
• Proportion of households living more than 5 Km from health facilities, and • Share of children (6-12 years) not attending school. The highest scoring districts per region were selected. But since this is a national Programme, selection was also dependent on having a representative selection of districts across all sub-regions in the country. Due to the higher incidence of poverty in Northern and Eastern Uganda one additional pilot district was proposed for each of these two regions.
11. How much do beneficiaries receive and how was this amount arrived at ?
Beneficiaries receive a monthly grant of UGX 23,000 [2011 value]. This amount is however revised annually to allow for inflation. This amount represents about 20 per cent of the monthly household consumption of the poorest of Uganda’s population. The amount is also sensitive to what is affordable at national scale. It is also in line with what similar Programmes around the region give (about US$8). Evidence from other countries shows that even such small payments, if paid regularly and predictably, make a huge difference to the lives of poor and vulnerable individuals and families.
12. How does one enroll into the Programme ?
Selection of beneficiaries is computerised and automated from Kampala using data from the national civil registry which collects data on all births and deaths. This system has recently been updated in many districts in Uganda which allows the Programme to target beneficiaries very accurately. The Programme then generates beneficiary lists that are sent to the village chairpersons for validation at the community level by the community members themselves. Once the names on the list are approved, the Ministry of Gender, Labour & Social Development through the Social Protection Secretariat sends the list to a contracted Mobile Money service provider who creates SIM cards for the beneficiaries.
13. How is the money actually delivered to the beneficiaries ?
Payment is done through the mobile money system. MTN has been contracted as a Payment Service Provider and MTN uses its mobile money service to deliver the money to beneficiaries. Each beneficiary is issued with a beneficiary Identity Card and then registered according to the standard MobileMoney registration process. They are then issued with an ATM sized SIM card. Beneficiaries don’t have to own mobile phones to access their money as their SIM cards can be used in the MTN “EasyTalk” phones (field machines) which are located in every sub-county or trading centre, near where the beneficiaries live. The money is sent monthly to the beneficiaries SIM cards from which they can withdraw cash from MTN MobileMoney agents in their locations.
14. For how long will beneficiaries receive the grants ?
The SCGs and VFGs are a pilot and have received funding commitments until 2015. Beneficiaries of the Senior Citizen’s Grant will receive transfers for the full duration of the pilot (unless they pass away). In the case of the VFGs, a re-targeting exercise will be conducted every 24 months. This will involve automatically recalculating the vulnerability scores for all households to allow for all changes arising from births, deaths, relocations or household splits. Existing beneficiaries who no longer score above the district eligibility threshold will only be removed from the beneficiary list if they have been enrolled for a minimum of 24 months. A list of no-longer-eligible households who have been enrolled for at least 24 months will be generated and they will be informed that they will no longer receive benefits, but will receive a Transition Support Grant of UGX 92,000.
15. How is the community registration model for senior citizens carried out ?
Parish Chiefs will, with the support of Village Chairpersons, facilitate Village Council meetings in participating communities to identify eligible older people. Applicants for the pension must present an official form of ID such as a voter’s card, birth certificate or baptism certificate. In the absence of such documentation, Village Councils will be asked to verify the eligibility of individual applicants based on reference to local or national historical events or peers.
Village-level beneficiary lists are then generated by the Parish Chief and submitted to the Sub-County Community Development Officer (CDO) for onward transfer to the District SAGE Unit. The District SAGE MIS Officer is responsible for entering the beneficiary list into the MIS after which the beneficiary list is sent to the Payment Service Provider for enrolment. Prior to enrolment with the Private Service Provider, the CDO may use his/her discretion to halt any clearly erroneously included beneficiary from enrolling until a final decision is taken.