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Social Care Ministry preparing to implement new social development project

Bridgetown – The Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development has undertaken training for newly-recruited Household Facilitators and Project Execution Unit (PEU) staff as one of the first steps in implementing its ‘Strengthening Human and Social Development in Barbados’ project.

Funded by a US$10 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the China Co-Financing Fund for Latin America, the project seeks to improve the lives of the nation’s poorest by contributing to the reduction of poverty and unemployment in Barbados. In particular, it seeks to boost the economic standing of the lowest socioeconomic communities across the island, specifically targeting 250 households. 

Held at Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP), the workshop guided training participants  through a live simulation of the Ministry’s new Proxy Means Test (PMT), an objective tool devised to identify the households deemed most ‘at risk’ and hence eligible for the project’s benefits.  Participants were also provided with an overview of the general theory in relation to social program targeting.

IDB Social Protection Senior Specialist and PMT trainer, Luis Tejerina, said it was important for PMT users to familiarise themselves with the new tool, prior to administering the test in real life. “This way, we can work through the finer details of the PMT program and make any adjustments to it, before it goes out into the field. We want to make this the most user-friendly and objective method of selection we can,” he said. 

Project Coordinator, Maureen Pollard echoed these sentiments. “The Proxy Means Test is an important tool in the success of this project so it is vital we pre-train our staff in all aspects of this beneficiary selection and targeting tool. We want to ensure that those in the community who require our assistance are accurately identified,” she said.

Ministry MIS Project Officer, Dorian Best, said the training was very productive, especially in helping facilitators to get accustomed to the PMT.   Dionne Watson, who will be using the PMT in her daily role as Household Facilitator said the pre-training was beneficial for her and her colleagues to get a deeper understanding of the testing method. “I am glad to have been able to see the kinds of data we will be working with before we get into the on-the-job component. It means I am much better equipped to identify the families we are trying to help,” she said.

The PMT uses variables such as income, years of education, family size, and access to piped water to predict the level of household poverty and thus eligibility to participate in the project. Similar tests have been implemented in most Latin American and Caribbean countries and it is widely recognized as an accurate and objective testing method.

This initiative in the area of social care and the labour markets is the first of its type for the IDB’s partnership with Barbados. It is hoped that the project will uplift vulnerable local communities through activities such as literacy and numeracy tuition, career counselling, educational services, family dynamics, health promotion and technical skills training.

Caption: PMT training participants for the Strengthening Human and Social Development in Barbados project.