By Max Patrick Ocaido
PARLIAMENT. The Parliamentary committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development has recommended government to lift the age for the beneficiaries of the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) scheme.
Currently, the Senior Citizens Grant programme that was piloted in 15 districts and now stands at 50 districts (in FY 2018/19) targets older persons who were 65 years and above and those who were 60 years and above in Karamoja region. The Senior Citizens Grant which was initially Shs23,000 but was increased to Shs24,000 and eventually Shs25,000 has reached over 123,000 beneficiaries.
However, the parliamentary committee in its recommendations wants government to increase the age for the new beneficiaries from 65 to 80 years. The Committee also strongly recommended a national rollout of the Programme with effect from the Financial Year 2019/2020.
“The new beneficiaries in the new districts should be 80 years and above. But current beneficiaries who are 65 years and above and those who are 60 years and above in the Karamoja region in the 58 beneficiary districts will continue receiving the grant,” the report reads as presented by Gender committee chairperson Alex Ndeezi (PwDs).
Ndeezi defended his report saying that increasing the age of beneficiaries from 65 to 80 years is more affordable and that government may provide much more than the current Shs25,000. According to the committee’s proposals, government will part with only Shs142bn per year to cater for beneficiaries who are 80 and above compared to Shs524bn that is used to cater for 1.6m elders who are 60 and above.
During the debate, MPs urged government to continue supporting the elderly, but warned them against facilitating elders who are benefiting from various pension schemes.
“I want to thank government that Kasese will finally benefit from SAGE. The elderly are not of the same status, some have buses, some have rentals, and the money should go to the very needy. I support the suggestion that the elderly who are on pension should not benefit from SAGE, I pray that for expansion of SAGE, let the districts with too much poverty take precedence,” William Nzoghu (Busongora MP) said.
The MPs also tasked National Identification Registration Authority (NIRA) to speed up registration and issuance of National IDs after it emerged that several elderly people have been denied the money on grounds that they do not have IDs.
Minister of State for Planning, David Bahati promised to follow the recommendations from the Gender committee, adding that the issue of age will be handled in a phased manner.
“The logical way is to rollout nationally targeting those at 60 years in a phased manner. We agree to rollout basing on the age category agreed upon by Parliament," he said. He promised more funding for the SAGE program in the budget of the next financial year, adding that at 80 years, government will be able to roll out the program countrywide.