Photograph — HPN

The unconditional transfer of cash to the elderly under the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) programme has reduced extreme poverty among benefitting households in Uganda.

The SAGE Scheme, under the Expanding Social Protection Programme, initially piloted two types of direct income support grants: the Senior Citizens Grants (SCG) and the Vulnerable Family Grants.

The SCG involves transferring a monthly stipend of about $7, targeted at older persons of 65 years and above. This enables them to have access to basic services, and to start income generating activities.

Since its inception, the programme has achieved its core objective of supporting beneficiary households’ basic consumption and assuaging poverty, Oxford Policy Management in its evaluation of the scheme revealed.

Increasing poverty

However, the improvement in the wellbeing of some of the beneficiaries under the scheme is in direct contrast to the rest of the country, as a majority in Uganda grapple with increased poverty.

According to data from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBoS), the overall vulnerability has increased. As of 2017, the results of the Uganda National Household Survey (UNHS) showed that poverty in the country had increased by two percent.

Since 2016, UBoS has twice revised the results of the UNHs, which initially showed the proportion of people living below the poverty line had increased from 19.7 percent in 2012/13 to 27 percent five years later.

Earlier this month, Executive Director of the Bureau of Statics, Ben Mungyereza announced that UBoS had settled on the final figure of 21.4 percent to represent the proportion of Ugandans living below the poverty line.

Impacts of SAGE

A study on the impacts of the social protection programme by Development Pathways – a research firm based in the United Kingdom – shows households benefiting from it.

In homes with a member receiving a SAGE pension, there was a 19 percent average reduction in poverty rates. While some have reported using the money to help grandchildren buy educational materials like books, others have bought poultry and livestock.

Head, Social and Economic Analysis at Development Pathways, Bjorn Gelders, added that the study shows that SAGE contributed to a reduction in child labour and enabled adults to remain active longer.

“Adults of working age in the SAGE recipient households were also found to have an improved chance of getting employment. And the pension appears to enable older persons to stay active longer,” Gelders said.

The study further revealed that in households with SAGE beneficiaries, expenditure per adult increased by 33.3 percent from an average of $12.2 to $16.3. And according to a 2018 report, poverty rates fell from 31.1 percent to 30.8 percent in SAGE implementing districts.

Development Economist, Diloa Bailey-Athias, noted that SAGE significantly increased the impact on household expenditure, a key proxy for overall living standards.

More so, the ability of household members to remain active longer has positive implications on the children. There was an increase of seven percent in school attendance by children aged between 10 and 14 living with SAGE beneficiaries.

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