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National Social Protection Policy to address poverty, social inequalities and other vulnerabilities

By Eva Frempon-Ntiamoah

 

Ghana has developed a National Social Protection Policy to guide the consistent and systematic provision of relevant programmes aimed at poverty reduction and the provision of relief for sections of the Ghanaian society who, for any reason, are unable to provide for themselves.

 

 

Social Protection is a range of actions carried out by the state and other parties in response to vulnerability and poverty which seeks to guarantee relief from destitution for the vulnerable in society.

 

Social Protection consists of access to basic essential health care for all, with particular attention to maternal health, minimum income security to access the basic needs of life for children, minimum income security for people in working age and minimum income security for older persons.

 

It is essential to achieving sustainable development since citizens must be cushioned against destitution, enabled to realize their basic rights and to participate effectively in socio-economic life.

 

Ghana has a rich history of social protection provided by traditional family and community arrangements as well as assistance and emergency relief provided by faith-based organizations, welfare groups and the government. 

 

However, guided by the Directive Principles of State Policy in Chapter five of the 1992 Republican Constitution of Ghana, the main responsibility is placed on Government to ensure effective and consistent social protection delivery through financing from public sources.

 

Since 2007, efforts have been made by government to enhance the co-ordination of major social protection interventions within a strategic framework.

 

And in 2013, a study to rationalize social protection provision and spending in Ghana recommended that interventions for the extreme poor should be prioritized and the national effort guided by key social protection programmes.

 

This thus called for the development of a policy, an idea which was given further impetus when cabinet, in June 2014, approved the strategic, oversight and monitoring roles of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) and mandated the Ministry to lead the development of a National Policy on Social Protection.

 

The National Social Protection Policy, as a response to the recommendations, therefore, seeks to provide just and reasonable access of all people in Ghana to public facilities and services and promote respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms.

 

The policy also seeks to contribute to achieving equal educational opportunities, maternity benefits as envisaged in Articles 25 and 27 and takes cognizance of Articles 36 and 37 of the 1992 Constitution which justify adequate means of livelihood, suitable employment, public assistance and maximum welfare as well as the protection and promotion of the rights of vulnerable groups and the need for welfare services.

 

The policy thus aims to deliver a well-coordinated, inter-sectoral social protection system enabling people to live in dignity through income support, livelihoods empowerment and improved access to systems of basic services. 

 

It seeks to promote the well-being of Ghanaians through an integrated platform of effective social assistance, social and productive inclusion, social insurance, and financial access to social services, and aspires to mitigate and reduce vulnerabilities for all, close the inequality gap, and ensure total inclusion for all Ghanaians.

 

The policy is anchored in Ghana’s national development planning arrangements and is aligned to the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA II 2014-2017); the Coordinated Programme of Economic and Social Development Policies 2014-2020 as well as a range of sectoral policies and programmes.

 

The policy acknowledges Ghana’s efforts at long-term development planning (LTDP) and aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

The policy requires various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to undertake policy interpretation, programme identification, technical co-ordination and research, monitoring and evaluation roles within their sectors. In addition, the policy requires sub-national actors, the Regional Co-ordinating Councils (RCCs) and local authorities to assume responsibility for implementing social protection programmes in their particular geographical contexts and collaborate with private and civil society entities in that endeavour.

 

The policy proposes that MoGCSP exercises oversight responsibility for specialized agencies responsible for social protection and flagship programmes and be responsible for their engagement with the Executive and other structures of Government, namely Livelihoods Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) Programme, Labour Intensive Public Works (LIPW), National Targeting Unit (NTU), National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), School Feeding Programme and the EBAN Elderly Card. 

 

The Policy responds to these proposals by providing a framework for coherent, effective and efficient action in ways that are holistic and properly targeted, and outlines an institutional framework for co-ordination, stakeholder collaboration and accountability.

 

Under the policy, the Ghana National Household Register (GNHR) will be the primary mechanism for the selection of beneficiary households for pro-poor social protection interventions while a common national data-base will be used to promote informed decision-making on vulnerability status and beneficiary selection as well as integrate the key social protection initiatives.

 

Similarly, under the policy, innovative financing strategies and interventions by social partners from the private sector, other non-state actors and development partners will be encouraged while complementary funding resources will be managed through a Social Protection Trust.

 

The policy also provides that in order to ensure effective monitoring and evaluation of policy delivery and track developments in social protection holistically, a fully-functioning system will be established to identify key results indicators, regular data collection and management and reporting, whereas an overarching framework will operate and track inter-sectoral and inter-programme performance in social protection according to the objectives, strategies and interventions of the policy in a time-efficient manner.

 

The policy also provides for policy review over the fifteen-year period (2016 to 2031) which includes annual review meetings, a biennial process review, mid-term and end-of-decade evaluations.

 

Social intervention programs currently being implemented in Ghana include the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty, a cash transfer system to poor households; Ghana School Feeding Program, a pilot project to provide food to children at school;  and the National Health Insurance Scheme, a form of National health insurance established by the Government of Ghana, with a goal of provide-ing equitable access and financial coverage for basic health care services to Ghanaian citizens.

 

The others are the distribution of Free School Uniform and Free Exercise Books for basic school children which had helped to lift the financial burden off their parents and guardians.

 

The writer is an officer of the Information Services Department.

 

 

 

 

 

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