A civil society organisation is opposed to the proposed amendments to the Social Assistance Act saying millions of Kenyans could lose their social protection benefits in the Inua Jamii cash transfer program.
HelpAge International says the proposals by Treasury Cabinet Secretary Amb. Ukur Yattani will jeopardize cash transfer programmes for older people, people living with disabilities, and other groups at risk in Kenya.
In a statement, said Erastus Maina, HelpAge International Kenya Country Director stated that scraping of the Social Assistance Act and replacing it with the Social Assistance Fund Regulations was an unacceptable loss of rights to Kenya’s citizens in the area of social protection.
Maina said that the Social Assistance Amendment Bill would empower Treasury to govern the social protection sector through regulations, which can be easily changed.
“The announcement to repeal the foundation of Kenya’s social protection system is a disappointing turn from Kenya’s recent achievements in ensuring that all citizens have can life dignified lives through rights-based social protection schemes,” said Erastus Maina.
Under the proposed amendments, the Treasury is seeking to put in place tough measures to guide the expenditure of funds meant for the vulnerable.
The new regulations aim to streamline the cash transfer programmes with the funds administered by an oversight board through the Social Assistance Fund.
The most obvious transformation was the targeted Older People Cash Transfer (OC-CT) to the universal social pension for all Kenyans aged 70 and over.
While a rigorous government-led impact evaluation of the Inua Jamii universal pension programme is underway, initial evidence suggest that the pension positively improves the lives of older people, including their autonomy and self-worth.
In addition to the universal social pension, the government also currently implements social protection programmes for Persons with Severe Disability and Orphans and Vulnerable Children.
Collectively, these programmes cost the exchequer about 30 billion shillings annually, with each beneficiary receiving 2,000 shillings per month. A total of 1.2 households – or six million people – benefit from these programmes.
The proposed Social Protection Fund is initially expected to receive only two billion shillings, which raises questions about the ability of the fund to continue implementing these crucial programmes.
The civil society organisations point out that the repeal of the Act that governs social protection programmes contravenes Kenya’s Constitution as well as internal human rights frameworks that have been signed and ratified by Kenya, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ILO Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202).
The civil society organisations have sent a memorandum to the Clerk of The National Assembly on the Social Assistance (Repeal) Bill 2020 and plan to lobby the parliament to protect the gains the House have made in ensuring Kenya meets its obligation to the citizens and to the international protocols.