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MPs want SAGE age eligibility lowered to 75 years

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MPs on the Gender, Labour and Social Development Committee of Parliament have asked the Government to consider lowering the eligibility of the Senior Citizens Grant under the Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment (SAGE) to 75 years from 80.

This, according to the legislators, would increase the program coverage, with more beneficiaries brought on board. They also argued that a number of older persons are dying before they reach the age of eligibility for the grant.

“It’s high time that members look at putting the age of eligibility to at least 75 years so that we have more people benefiting; so that we can be seen to live by Government assurance,” said Flavia Kabahenda Rwabuhoro, the chairperson of the Committee, adding that in her constituency, there are no more older persons eligible for the grant because those of 80 years and above have died.

According to projections by the Gender Ministry, lowering the age of eligibility to 75 years will see a total of 505,881 beneficiaries covered from the current 350,000.

This was during an interface with Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Social Protection (UPFSP) as they presented a position paper on Social Protection financing in the National Budget Framework Paper for the  FY 2022/23.

“For us to hang on to a higher age eligibility when we know that by that time people are in the evening of their lives is like giving ourselves hot air,” said Kabahenda.

Workers MP Charles Bakabulindi said many older persons are being left out because of lack of national identification cards. According to him, older persons by the time of registration didn’t have the strength to line up in long queues.

“Government needs to urgently address the issue of National Identification cards as a prerequisite to benefit from SAGE. Other mechanisms should be thought about because a number of older persons did not register for the identification cards,” he stated.

Data from the Ministry of Gender indicates that out of the 200,500 older persons targeted under the SAGE national rollout, a total of 174,873 (87.2%) beneficiaries have been verified and paid bringing the total number of older persons reached as at 30th December 2021 to 332,793.

The 25,627 older persons not yet covered are those that are either not yet registered with NIRA or have registered but have errors with their National IDs.

Patrick Katabaazi Kiconco, the UPFSP coordinator said that during the fourth quarter of FY 2020/2021, 270,203 beneficiaries were not paid due to insufficient funding and as a result, the Programme accumulated arrears for beneficiary payments worth Ushs36.2billion.

“We call upon Parliament to task the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development to urgently release the supplementary funding of Shs36.2bn required for the Senior Citizens Grant in the current financial year 2021/22,” he stated.

Katabaazi also noted that the single registry which is critical in the identification of potential beneficiaries of social protection interventions remains not operationalized hence urged Gov’t to find resources for operationalization of single registry.

 “There is a need to streamline the implementation of other grants to vulnerable groups such as the disability grant using the successful implementation of the Senior Citizens Grant as a benchmark.”

According to Katabaazi, the current budgeting is not consistent with the overall strategy for the national roll-out of the Senior Citizens Grant (SAGE) of 2018/19, the resolutions of Parliament (2018) and the commitments with Development Partners.

This, he said, poses a risk to the general welfare of the older persons and the people that depend on them.

Members of the Forum called on the Committee to ensure that the funding gap of sh17.49bn reflected in the National Budget Framework Paper 2022/23 is covered before the budget is passed. Additionally, the members want the grant revised to at least sh30,000 from the current 25,000 to cater for inflation.

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