Today, social protection is recognised all over the world as a critical element of national development strategies. It is recognised as key to reaching vulnerable, often excluded sections of the population, thereby achieving inclusive, pro-poor, equitable development.
Direct Income Support programmes – the core of national social protection systems – provide regular and reliable transfers of money (direct income support/social grants) to vulnerable or excluded citizens. Key examples of Direct Income Support programmes include Uganda’s senior citizens grants, disability support grants, child support grants and unemployment benefits.
In Uganda, The Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) Scheme under the Expanding Social Protection Programme initially piloted two types of direct income support grants: the Senior Citizens Grants and the Vulnerable Family Grants. The Senior Citizens Grant targeted older persons of 65 years and above (but lowered in the case of more vulnerable Karamoja region to 60 years). The Vulnerable Family Grant on the other hand was paid to poor and vulnerable households that lacked labour capacity.
In June 2015, however, the Ministry of Gender, Labour & Social development made a decision to phase out the Vulnerable Family Grant. This decision was based on the lessons learnt in the course of the pilot that showed that the Vulnerable Family Grant was contentious and not well accepted by the community, as was the case with the Senior Citizens Grants. The Vulnerable Family Grant was a household grant (as opposed to the senior Citizen Grant, that is an individual grant) and therefore its administration was problematic and not well appreciated by the communities. In some districts, community leaders requested the Ministry to remove the grant and replace it with the Senior Citizen Grant.
It is hoped that now that Uganda has a Social Protection Policy in place, when funding allows, other direct income support grants targeting specific vulnerable groups can now be initiated under the SAGE scheme.