With the current economic hardships being experienced by many Ghanaians, social protection policy provisions become a lifesaver for many especially the vulnerable and therefore, there is the need to ensure that these policies are implemented properly to serve as a safety net for individuals and households who are vulnerable to poverty and social exclusion.
It is for this reason that Penplusbytes’ economic justice and social accountability project HERE (Health, Education, Resource Equity) and Now Project has deployed new digital tools (the #ShortChanged App) and community monitoring groups in Greater Accra, Ashanti and Savannah regions to enable citizens understand the various social protection policies and actively monitor and provide feedback on how the selected policies are being implemented in their communities.
“Practically, this project combines innovative digital technology mashed-up with face-to-face participatory citizen monitoring of public expenditure on health and education.” Peter Agbesi Adivor, Project Manager
“Feedback collated from the citizens’ monitoring served as evidence-based information to generate policy briefs on some selected social protection programmes such as Free SHS, School Feeding Programme, National Health Insurance Scheme, The Mental Health Act and others. The policy briefs serve as the main tool for advocating for the improvement of standards by informing government on the challenges citizens encounter with these policies and proffer solutions that will ensure the national cake benefits all especially the poor and vulnerable in our society,” he added.
So far, the policy briefs have been presented to the Ministry of Education; Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) Secretariat and the Mental Health Authority.
At the Ministry of Education, the Chief Director, Divine Y. Ayidzoe, who received the team, welcomed the findings of the research. He stated that one of the recommendations of the policy brief which is for the government to implement a Tertiary Resources and Infrastructure Improvement Programme (TRIIP) is a laudable idea and will be pursued by the Ministry and relevant stakeholders in the education sector value chain.
The Head of Communications at the LEAP Secretariat, Mr. Colson Akanbasiam on his part, admitted that Penplusbytes’ findings with regards to awareness on the criteria for selection of qualified households corroborate their own feedback from the field. On the paltry disbursements handed to beneficiaries under the programme, Mr. Akanbasiam assured the project team that the government has made a commitment to increase the value of the grants.
In response, Mr. Adivor, the project manager for the “Here and Now” project called on the secretariat and government to fast-track the process for the increment to bring relief to beneficiaries, many whose plights have deteriorated due to the current economic crisis.
Taking her turn, the acting Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority, Dr. Caroline R. Amissah lamented the spiritual myths associated with mental health in the country. She also expressed worry over the inadequate number of mental health facilities across the country and how particularly, the northern belt has been disadvantaged in that regard.
In concluding remarks, Dr. Amissah and the leadership of the authority pledged to forge a partnership with Penplusbytes to address the low level of awareness on the Mental Health Act which was confirmed by close to 89 per cent of respondents in the study.
Some of the key policy recommendations in the policy briefs presented to the duty bearers included: the call on government to introduce a Health Infrastructure Improvement Programme (HIIP) and a Tertiary Resources and Infrastructure Improvement Programme (TRIIP) to circumvent the infrastructure challenge especially in the mental health sector and also, tertiary institutions to accommodate the annually increasing number of Free SHS graduates.
The policy brief also recommends that the government of Ghana increase its social protection spending to GDP which is the lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa.
These recommendations from the brief are expected to help advocate for reforms where necessary in social protection policy making, by directly capturing the needs of citizens and document lessons learnt on economic justice and social accountability in Ghana.
The HERE (Health, Education, Resource Equity) and Now project, which is being funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), seeks to equip ordinary citizens with usable information, methods, online and mobile based platform to enable them monitor health and education sector policies, indicators and programs while actively engaging duty-bearers to demand for better service delivery.
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