Direct Income Support

Uganda’s Senior Citizens Grants & Vulnerable Family Grant

Social Protection is today recognised all over the world as a critical element of national development strategies. It is also recognised as key to achieving inclusive, pro-poor and equitable development.

Direct Income Support programmes

The core of national social protection systems – provide small but regular and reliable transfers of money to vulnerable or excluded citizens. Direct Income Support schemes include disability grants, senior citizens grants, orphan and vulnerable children grants and vulnerable family grants, among others.

In Uganda, the Expanding Social Protection Programme of the Ministry of Gender, Labour & Social Development is piloting the Senior Citizens Grants (SCGs) and the Vulnerable Family Grants (VFGs). The two schemes are designed to generate evidence on the feasibility and impact of such programmes. It is hoped that one or more of the schemes will be scaled up nationally to cover the whole country.

Senior Citizens Grants (SCGs)

The Programme is intended to specifically target labour-constrained individuals and households (that is, people who are at increased vulnerability to poverty due to their reduced ability to engage in productive activity). There are two types of grants under SAGE; the Senior Citizens Grant and the Vulnerable Families Grant.

The Senior Citizens Grants go to individuals of 65 years and above. However, the age of eligibility in Karamoja is 60 years in recognition of the fact that the extreme poverty in the region and insecurity have led to reduced life expectancy. In lowering the age threshold for Karamoja it is expected that the proportion of households reached by the programme will be similar across all districts.The Vulnerable Families Grant, on the other hand, goes to households that have been selected through a scientific targeting system which selects households based on the age, sex, disability and orphanhood status of household members. Only 15 per cent of the families in the targeted districts will be enrolled into the VFG.

It is important to note that SAGE being a pilot, not everybody within these criteria will be enrolled to the Programme. It is also important to note that the two grants will be administered in different sub-counties and that only those people who have been resident in SAGE districts for at least one year are eligible.

The SCGs are designed to reduce old age poverty by providing a minimum level of income security to all older persons. However, SCGs are not only about older persons, they benefit other members of society in the following ways:

  • SCGs increase access to health and education services amongst older persons and their families
  • SCGs have a significant impact on child nutrition and development as older persons tend to invest a portion of their entitlements in meeting their grandchildren’s needs.
  • Where older persons are able to continue working, SCGs are also support them by providing the necessary small capital to start small businesses.
  • The money transferred through senior citizens grants is invested back into the local community, thus boosting local business and supporting local economic growth.
  • The SCGs also respond to the fact that Uganda’s society is fast urbanising. Although the country has a rich tradition of supporting older persons, it is also true that the country is modernizing at a fast pace. As a result, many older persons cannot be sure of receiving the level of support they once expected from their children and relatives.

Older persons are faced with other unique challenges:

Due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic the country has had, older persons continue to bear the burden of caring for many orphans. As they struggle with these orphans, many older persons suffer from a range of chronic diseases which, left untreated, can be permanently disabling. Indeed 64.5 per cent of senior citizens in Uganda have some form of disability. Moreover, 93 per cent of older persons in Uganda live without any form of financial security such as pensions or savings.

When these factors combine, many of Uganda’s senior citizens experience poverty, social exclusion, discrimination and a life of destitution, without dignity and any income security.

Whether in formal or informal service, it is indisputable that all Uganda’s senior citizens contributed in one way or other to its development. It is only fair that the country repays this service at a time the senior citizens are not able to work anymore. Indeed Uganda will be a proud patriotic country if its senior citizens are well taken care of.

President Yoweri Museveni said in his speech at the launch of the Senior Citizens Grants during the International Day for Older Persons on 1st October, 2011 that, “Older persons have faced (these) challenges alone for too long. The National Resistance Movement Government recognizes that as people reach old age, basic income security is critical to their well-being, dignity and their continued participation in the social and economic development of their communities. The Government therefore is determined to empower older persons and ensure that income insecurity and all forms of neglect and abuse of older persons are addressed.”Moreover, projections show that a national implementation of the SCGs would have significant impacts on poverty:

  1. (i) 30 per cent of beneficiary households would be lifted above the poverty line
  2. (ii) The poverty gap-a measure of the depth of poverty- among households with over-65s would reduce by 79 per cent
  3. (iii) The national poverty gap would be reduced by 17 per cent
  4. (iv) The SCGs are simple, cost-effective, and scalable instruments of social protection. In fact, they are often the starting point for developing social protection systems in many countries. In Uganda as well, they are the most logical beginning point for the development of the country’s social protection system.