The amount of money spent on keeping the most needy senior citizens healthy rose five times over the past four years, signalling the government’s determination to improve the life expectancy of older people.
Documents prepared by the State Department of Social Protection show that Sh7.3 billion will be spent as stipend on the older people in all counties this financial year alone, five times more than what was spent in the 2012/13 financial year.
The Grand Coalition government spent Sh1.5 billion on the monthly stipend on the 59,000 older people during the 2012/13 financial year.
The number of beneficiaries has also grown to the current 310,000.
In total, the government has spent Sh25.7 billion on the programme since it was introduced in 2008, initially with only 200 beneficiaries.
On Saturday, Principal Secretary in charge of Social Protection Susan Mochache said the programme had turned in handsome gains, helping the elderly lead quality lives that had prompted the government to keep the safety nets top on the agenda.
The objective of the programme, she said, was to provide regular and predictable cash transfer to vulnerable older persons so to improve their livelihoods.
“We will fully embrace the government’s vision of ensuring our older people are afforded an opportunity to live more comfortable livelihoods that will ensure they stay with us longer.”
In the last four years of the Jubilee regime, about Sh24 billion has been spent on the programme whose key anchor is to increase life expectancy for the elderly through improved quality lives.
Two weeks ago, National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich announced that the programme will now be sweetened to all older people aged 70 years and above from next year, a move that could see the government spend more billions per year. “All persons above 70 will receive a cash transfer in the form of a monthly stipend and National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) cover that will be paid by the government,” Mr Rotich said as he read the next financial year’s budget.
He said the annual payment — Sh7.4 billion overall — is intended to ease suffering of the segment and will also see all elderly persons in the country get an NHIF cover
His announcement followed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s declaration, while on a recent campaign tour of Kisii, that all older people countrywide should be enrolled in the programme.
The President was responding to a call by the Kisii Elders Council Chairman James Matundura that all elderly people be put on the programme irrespective of their family background.
Ms Mochache said her department had welcomed the government’s plan to enroll all older persons in the safety net programme in addition to those already in existance.
“The move to upscale the programme is a clear testimony of the fact that we have done a good job to cushion our senior citizens against poverty each passing year,” she said.
So far, the programme has targeted poor and vulnerable older persons of 65 years and above.
Ms Mochache said the government has successfully ran the safety net programmes, including cash transfers, to persons with severe disabilities and orphaned and vulnerable children, as well as populations experiencing drought and famine.
According to the data for the 2015/16 financial year, Kilifi County with a total of 20,629 beneficiaries had the highest number of older beneficiaries in the programme. It was followed by Machakos with 14,688 and Kitui with 13,264.
Lamu County recorded the least number of beneficiaries, 1,339, while Laikipia had the second lowest with 2,249. According to the document prepared by the Ministry of East African Community seen by Sunday Standard, the Cash Transfer Programme to older persons that was started in 2007 has exceeded expectations. So far, the programme has achieved a commendable success by targeting poor and vulnerable older persons of 65 years and above.
It shows that the programme has undergone transformation, initially starting off in three districts under the Rapid Results Initiative in 2007 when only 300 households received Sh1,000 monthly.
This was scaled-up in 2009 to cover 44 districts, with 33,000 households receiving Sh1,500 a month. In 2011, the programme received further funding and was revised to cover 36,036 households, each receiving a monthly transfer of Sh2,000.
By 2012/2013 the number rose to 59,000 households in all the sub counties. In 2013/14 the programme enrolled 105,000 new beneficiaries, leading to a total coverage of 164,000 households.
By the end of the 2014/2015 financial year, the programme had registered 225,000 beneficiaries in all the 290 constituencies. Social safety nets for the elderly are crucial given that the collapse of traditional family ties has resulted in more senior citizens being left to fend for themselves, especially in the rural areas.
Worse, the increase in the number of HIV/Aids orphans in rural areas has heaped more responsibilities on the senior citizens.
Estimates show that the number of old people in Kenya will rise to 2.2 million in 2020, just 10 years to the goal of achieving a middle-class economy under Vision 2030.