Pay LEAP grants; beneficiaries are suffering – Groups

Three social protection groups have urged the government to expeditiously pay the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) grants to beneficiaries to alleviate their suffering. The groups are the Civil Society Platform on the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10, the Social Accountability Forum, and the Civil Society Platform for Social Protection. They made the call at a joint press conference in Accra on Tuesday 18th June 2024. According to the groups, the beneficiaries had suffered four months of delay in receiving the grants, exacerbating the hardships those vulnerable Ghanaians were facing. Mr Auberon Jeleel Odoom, Convenor, SDG Sub platform Goal 10, said the delay had increased the cost of living of beneficiaries by 15 per cent over the past year, including a 20 per cent rise in food prices. 'This issue transcends political and economic debates; it touches on the core of human dignity and the right to a basic standard of living. The elderly, orphans and vulnerable children, and persons with s evere disabilities deserve better,' she said. 'They deserve a government that honours its commitments and places their needs first. Anything less is a betrayal of trust and a failure of leadership,' he added. Mr Odoom said the timeliness of LEAP payments was also critical to achieving the programme's positive social and economic objectives. The Convenor said the government must take immediate and decisive action to rectify the delays in the payments to alleviate the suffering of the vulnerable and to restore confidence in social protection initiatives. He said despite the government's commitment to prompt payment of the grants as a condition of the recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout negotiations, the process remained 'disappointingly sluggish'. Mr Odoom said for many beneficiaries, particularly the elderly, the LEAP grants were a lifeline and often their only source of income to purchase food, medication, and other essential items. 'The delays, which have stretched to as long as four month s, mean that many elderly individuals are forced to make impossible choices between eating and buying medicine. This is not just a financial issue; it is a matter of dignity and survival,' the Convenor stressed. The LEAP initiative is recognised as one of the five primary social intervention programmes to assist the poor and vulnerable populations. By the end of 2023, the programme had extended its reach to approximately 350,580 households, benefiting around 1.5 million individuals nationwide. As part of its efforts to mitigate the impact of rising living costs on the poor and vulnerable, the Government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) and the Ministry of Finance (MoF), increased the monthly LEAP benefit levels by 100 per cent in the 2023 National Budget. Additionally, in September 2023, the Cabinet approved a structural benchmark developed by the MoGCSP in collaboration with MoF. The benchmark introduced an inflation-based indexation mechanism to adjust L EAP benefits annually, ensuring that the real value of the benefits is preserved against inflation. Source: Ghana News Agency