One of the things outgoing President Gloria Arroyo got right is the work done by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The Social Welfare department under Arroyo has been one of the few National Government Agencies (NGAs) being lauded for its performance in providing aid for the country’s most bereft citizens.
In recent years the DSWD has undergone several improvements. The DSWD, a few months back, became part of the second batch of NGAs to undergo the Institute for Solidarity in Asia’s Balanced Scorecard system for Good Governance. This system of assessing governance has already helped set a few local governments and NGAs up the right path to excellence.
Other than this, the DSWD has also successfully implemented projects that are benefiting the poorest of the poor.
One of these programs is the DSWD’s National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR). This is what allows the department to identify the poorest of the poor who really need government aid.
The NHTS-PR establishes a database of households classified according to their poverty level and allows the DSWD to rationalize the allocation of government resources to those who need it the most.
The DSWD has hired some 15,000 employees to work under this project to identify the poorest of the poor. These workers are sent to various parts across the country interviewing and assessing struggling families.
These workers then place the household data they have gathered as variables to a Proxy-Means test, a statistical formula for determining the ranking, classification and prioritization of poor households. This program helps the department decide which families are candidates for other welfare programs.
Another is the DSWD flagship program Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). The 4Ps program helps the country meet most of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, particularly that of ending extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.
The program primarily provides cash grants to extremely poor families to allow their members to meet certain and specific numerical goals targeted by these MDGs. The beneficiaries are selected using the NHTS-PR process.
The 4Ps is patterned after the successful implementation of conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs in Latin American countries. There it was found that added investments in human development improved a country’s chances of reducing poverty.
The cash grant packages the beneficiaries get are: (1) a health care grant package of P500 a month per household or P6,000 a year for health check-ups, vaccines and food; and (2) an educational cash grant package of P300 a month per child for school needs or P 3,000 for a school year. Overall, a household with three children meeting the required conditions shall receive government subsidy of P1,400 per month or P15,000 annually.
The cash grants are released every three months through a LandBank cash card. No DSWD official or employee handles the cash.
But to avail of these cash grants, the beneficiaries should follow certain conditions for the betterment of their health and education. Pregnant women are required to undergo pre- and post-natal care and be attended during childbirth by skilled health personnel. Children 0 to 5 years old also must receive regular health check-ups and vaccines; while those 6 to 14 years old are required to take deworming pills.
For the educational conditions, children of beneficiaries aged 3 to 5 must enroll in day care or pre-school classes and register at least an 85 percent attendance. Also, those aged 6 to 14 years must enroll in elementary or high school and attend at least 85 percent of their classes.
Acting DSWD Secretary Cecilia Capadocia Yangco presented The Manila Times during a Roundtable discussion with updated data on the 4Ps, which is accorded an annual budget of P5 billion.
The 4Ps program currently subsidizes close to one million households. It covers 670 municipalities and 61 cities across 80 provinces.
Thanks to the program, over one million children between 6 to 14 years old are enrolled in elementary and high school and maintain at least 85 percent attendance.
Some 800,000 children 0-5 years old have received immunization and preventive check-ups.
Over 400,000 children 3 to 5 years old are enrolled in day care and pre-school centers with attendance of at least 85 percent.
Close to 40,000 pregnant women have received preventive check-ups and health care.
The best thing about this program is it’s not just a dole-out aimed at temporary relief. It’s really more of a human and social development program with planned long-term benefits.
Finally, the DSWD takes the concept of the 4Ps program and extends it from households to municipalities with the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services or KALAHI-CIDSS.
This program funds several necessary projects for the poorest municipalities as determined by the 4Ps and the NHTS-PR. These projects are geared to improving the delivery of basic social services, basic infrastructure, community production, environmental protection/conservation, and skills and capability training.
The fact sheet for the KALAHI-CIDSS program provided by acting Secretary Yangco says that the program currently subsidizes the projects of 184 municipalities and 4,229 barangays as of March 2010.
The future President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s continuation of these programs would definitely show the world that we are serious about achieving development.
More than continuation, improving these programs would definitely be better and chalk up triumphs for the new Aquino administration. –RAFAEL PUYAT REPORTER, Manila Times