01.04.01. Social protection schemes | Jamaica

01.04.01. Social protection schemes | Jamaica

27 Sep 2022

Brief overview of social protection schemes implemented by the government

The welfare system in Jamaica largely falls under the purview of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s (MLSS) Public Assistance Division. The mandate of this division is to provide assistance to Jamaicans who are poor and/or vulnerable, including children, unemployed or underemployed adults, older persons, differently abled persons, pregnant and lactating women and disaster victims (MLSS, 2018).

Public Assistance Programmes constitute 4 types of grants: Rehabilitation Assistance Grant, Compassionate Assistance Grant, Emergency Assistance Grant, and the Education and Social Intervention Grant. These grants are administered through each of the Ministry of Labour & Social Security Parish Offices, while assessment and intervention are required by designated social workers to determine eligibility (MLSS, 2018).

According to a situational analysis by the PIOJ (2018), other social protection schemes include:

  • Poor Relief Programme provided by the Ministry of Local Government and Community development, which offers cash and in-kind transfers to Registered Poor persons
  • Economic Empowerment Grant provided by the Jamaica Centre for persons with disabilities
  • School Feeding Programme provided by the Ministry of Education
  • Fee waivers for public secondary school tuition provided by the Ministry of Education
  • Fee waivers for public sector health care provided by the Ministry of Health.

Brief overview of social protection schemes implemented by development partners or international

Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) (provided by the MLSS). According to a summary provided by the Overseas Development Institute (2006), PATH is a Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme providing cash transfers to poor families, who are subject to comply with conditions that promote the development of the human capital of their members. Established in 2001 as part of a wide-ranging restructuring of the Jamaican welfare system carried out by the government in partnership with the World Bank, PATH aims to replace former mechanisms like food stamps, outdoor poor relief (programme that assists persons living in the streets or who have a residence but are experiencing challenges acquiring basic necessities)  public assistance with one CCT programme.

In 2014, 64,355 persons 60 years and older from families deemed eligible for PATH and who were not already in receipt of a National Insurance (NIS) pension were registered for the programme. For the financial year 2011-2012, 57,644 older people benefited from PATH, accounting for 15.5% of the programme’s total beneficiaries, making older persons the second largest category of recipients after children (MLSS, 2018).

The PIOJ developed Jamaica’s Social Protection Strategy with the aim of addressing the various obstacles to population-wide adequate living standards via a Social Protection Floor in order to help provide universally for all citizens while offering safety nets for the most vulnerable (PIOJ, 2018).

For older people, strategies also span transformative, promotive, and protective interventions to encourage social inclusion and economic growth in an environment that facilitates both state support (such as institution of social pensions for a targeted segment of older persons) and market alternatives for social security (PIOJ, 2014).

COVID-19 and Social Protection for the Elderly:

COVID-19 grants announced benefit older persons and carers. Specifically, JMD$150 million was dedicated to the Ministry of Local Government. A portion of this will be used to provide food, medicine, and basic necessities to those living in infirmaries where 90% of its residents are over the age of 65. As of March 25 2020, funds have been used to distribute 2,000 care packages and 1,800 sanitisation packages.


Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS). (2018). National Policy for Senior Citizens (Green Paper) 2018. https://opm.gov.jm/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Green-Paper-National-Policy-for-Senior-Citizens-1-1.pdf

Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ). (2018). National Policy on Poverty and National Poverty Reduction Programme: Government of Jamaica, 2017. Available from: https://www.pioj.gov.jm/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/NationalPolicyOnPovertyNationalPovertyReductionProgramme