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President Uhuru Kenyatta presides over the launch of Inua Jamii program in February 2014. He is flanked by Deputy President William Ruto/PSCU

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Social Assistance Act repeal could cost 1.1mn vulnerable Kenyans safety net protection – lobbyists

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 13 – Organisations engaged in social protection initiatives are warning that millions of Kenyans could lose their social protection benefits in the Inua Jamii cash transfer programme, if the Social Assistance Act is repealed, as proposed by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani.

HelpAge International Kenya Country Director Erastus Maina says repealing the Bill would empower Yattani to govern the social protection sector simply through regulations, which can be changed on a whim and do not confer social protection rights to citizens.

He cautions replacing the Act with the Social Assistance Fund Regulations, represents an unacceptable loss of claimable rights to Kenya’s citizens in the area of social protection.

“By proposing to revert to narrow poverty targeting, the draft regulations directly undermine the notion of social protection as a right to all Kenyan citizens, as clearly enshrined in the Kenyan Constitution. In Kenya and around the world, these poverty targeting approaches to social assistance have consistently been found to be ineffective in accurately identifying people in need, exclude majorities of people for no good reason, and often create tensions within communities,” says the HelpAge International Kenya Country Director.

The civil societies point out that the repeal of the Act that governs social protection programmes contravenes Kenya’s Constitution as well as internal human rights frameworks that have been signed and ratified by Kenya, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ILO Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202).

The proposed Social Protection Fund is initially expected to receive only Sh2 billion, which raises questions about the ability of the fund to continue implementing these crucial programmes.

A total of 1.1 million beneficiaries which include orphans and vulnerable, older persons, and persons with severe disabilities were last month paid Sh4,000 for the months of May and June.

In addition to the universal social pension, the government also currently implements social protection programmes for Persons with Severe Disability and Orphans and Vulnerable Children. Collectively, these programmes cost the exchequer about Sh30 billion annually, with each beneficiary receiving Sh2,000 per month.

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 A total of 1.2 households – or six million people – benefit from these programmes.

Civil society organisations have sent a memorandum to the Clerk of The National Assembly on the Social Assistance (Repeal) Bill 2020. The lobby groups plan to lobby the Parliament to protect the gains made in ensuring Kenya meets its obligation to its citizens and international protocols.

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