The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, says more than 213,000 households in all the 216 districts are currently benefiting from the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme.
The sector Minister, Nana Oye Lithur, said all the 213,000 beneficiaries under the programme which was one of the country’s five flagship poverty alleviation programmes under Ministry, had also been
registered on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) free of charge.
She said other social interventions such as the Labour Intensive Public Works (LIPW), NHIS, Basic School Capitation Grant and the Ghana School Feeding programmes, were all doing well.
The Minister, who could not hide her excitement about the successes and increase in the coverage from 1,654 beneficiaries in 21 districts to the 213,000 in 216 districts when the programme commenced in March 2008, said the LEAP grants were improving social inclusion for poor households, allowing them to re-establish social ties and fully participate in community, economic, religious and social lives.
Nana Oye was speaking at the Second Social Protection Dialogue (SPD) series in Accra to disseminate impact evaluation and assessment on the LEAP and the Labour Intensive Public Works programmes.
She said the improvement in the LEAP could be attributed to actions taken by the Ministry to remedy earlier challenges in programme implementation.
She said the Minister had used findings from two main evaluations; the LEAP 1000, a support programme for children in their first 1000 days of life, and the Impact Evaluation, to make important pragmatic decisions like the regularisation of payments and increase the cash transfer amount to deepen impacts for programme beneficiaries.
Nana Oye Lithur said the programme, which started as a pilot, had since 2008 provided cash payments to extremely poor households with orphans and vulnerable children, the elderly without productive capacity, persons with acute disability and recently expanded to cover pregnant women and children under 12 months.
Currently, beneficiaries receive between GH¢64.00 and GH¢100.00 every other month through cash transfers using E-Zwich cards, and this achievement has been graded A+ by the British Department for International Development (DFID).
The programme, Nana Oye Lithur said, has over the last eight years expanded nationwide with a more refined targeting mechanism which had proven to be effective for the LEAP 1000, as the Ministry makes stringent efforts to include an additional 50,000 households in the second phase.
“LEAP is now functioning much more effectively, supported by a robust M&E system,” she said.
Nana Oye Lithur said preliminary calculations from the 2016 end-line evaluation showed an appreciation in the monthly spending of LEAP households from GHC 112 per month per adult to GHC 187 which was an increase of 67 percent between 2010 and now, and it had also recorded an impressive reduction in school absences.
She said the LEAP had also supported households in improving productivity both in agriculture and non-farm activities.
However, although there was a strong link between LEAP and NHIS, it does not appear to be translating into improved health outcomes or increased use of health for households and called for the doubling of efforts to link beneficiaries to access services such as child growth monitoring and nutrition counselling.
Dr Isaac Osei-Akoto and Dr Simon Bawakyillenuo, both researchers at the Institute of Statistics, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana, took turns to explain the progress and impact of the LIPW, which engages people for public works by promoting the use and management of available human and material resources for the construction and maintenance of infrastructure.
They said the LIPW, which had 88.7 per cent beneficiaries, had the potential of causing seasonal migration in the communities where recipients used their incomes to purchase farm inputs and household consumables.
Madam Susan Namondo Ngongi, the Country Representative of UNICEF, and Ms Kathleen Beegle, the Programme Leader in Charge of Human Development at the World Bank, expressed their satisfaction with the progress of the LEAP and LIPW towards addressing poverty reduction, unemployment and rural-urban migration.
Dr Grace Badiako, a Commissioner at the National Development Planning Commission, urged the Gender Ministry to ensure long-term planning and proper co-ordination to ensure the sustainability of the programme.