2018 Barbados: Evaluation of the Pilot MEND and RISE Cash Transfer Programmes
Author: Fabrizio Rigout, Melissa A. Costa, Peter Smith, Pauline Mauclet, Rebeca Mansur
With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System (GEROS)". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation reports. The quality rating scale for evaluation reports is as follows: “Highly Satisfactory”, “Satisfactory”, “Fair” or “Unsatisfactory”. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labelled as ‘Part 2’ of the report, and the executive feedback summary labelled as ‘Part 3’.
St. Kitts and Nevis (SKN) is a twin-island Federation in the Eastern Caribbean. Altogether it has a population of 47,195 (Census, 2011). The country ranked 77 among 188 countries and territories in the 2015 Human Development Report. GNI per capita of US$14,490 classifies the country as a high-income economy according to the World Bank methodology.
Although SKN is considered one of the most prosperous countries in the Eastern Caribbean, poverty has been a majorconcern even prior to the 2008 financial crisis. Poverty in SKN affects at-risk social groups, particularly single mothersand children. Not only are many of the indigent and poor households headed by single mothers, but children comprisenearly 51,6% of the poor population.
As part of the National Poverty Reduction Strategy, the government launched two pilot cash transfer programmes to assist indigent and poor families; MEND in St. Kitts and RISE in Nevis, which were national adaptations of the Chilean Puente Programme. MEND (Mould, Empower, Nurture, Direct) was implemented from September 2013 to April 2016 in St. Kitts, and RISE (Restore, Inspire, Secure, Empower) started in September 2014 to September 2016 in Nevis. The programmes aimed to help families become more resilient and break the cycle of poverty by investing in human capital development and connecting them to a wide range of social services.
Initial prioritization criteria established the targeting of children, elderly, people with disabilities and pregnant women,totaling 21 households under the MEND pilot in St. Kitts and seven 7 households under RISE in Nevis. However, therewas not a formal method for selecting households, where a proxy means test was established and a ranking of priorities was developed. In fact, beneficiary families were chose on a ‘first come, first served basis. The programme was able to reach women and children and to a less extent the elderly, people with disabilities and pregnant women.
The MEND and RISE cash transfer programmes were aimed at protecting and promoting the well-being of the poorest households in the islands, improve decision making and relationships in families, and reduce the poverty rate in St. Kitts and Nevis.
The government considered a preliminary scale-up by an estimated 50% to cover 525 indigent people, of which 344 are children. The Ministry of Community Development, Gender Affairs and Social Services (MCDGASS) requested support to evaluate the programmes to learn from the pilot phase and utilise the findings for any further refinement of the design, delivery, coordination, and monitoring of the programmes for full deployment at the national level.
This evaluation addresses both the implementation process and the results achieved with the aim of providing MCDGASS with the necessary information for scale up of both programmes. This is an ex-post evaluation, considering it was carried and finalized almost two years after programme implementation.
The detailed objectives of the evaluation are:
- To determine the impact of MEND and RISE to date on human development at the programme, household, and individual levels.
- To ascertain the programme relevance and sustainability and the operational effectiveness and efficiency of the pilots including programme design, delivery, coordination/partnership, institutional capacity and monitoring mechanism.
- To identify implications and requirements (institutional capacity, coordination mechanisms, costs, etc.) for scaling up and rolling out the re-designed MEND and RISE programmes in a context of a broader and revamped national social protection framework and current and projected national and sustainable social investments; and
- To identify opportunities and constraints the programme has faced and draw lessons and good practices from the MEND and RISE pilots to move forward towards implementing a universal social protection floor as well as the alignment of the Social Protection Bill.
This evaluation included qualitative and quantitative analyses to not only obtain generalizable insights, but also understand how individual partners interacted with the project.
The combination of quantitative and qualitative tools had the purpose of bringing hard data to help with programme improvement (such as levels of income), while at the same time capturing the perception of participants in terms of the impact of the intervention in daily lives and allowing them to speak freely on what they though the programmes should or should not address and change.
The voices of the beneficiaries were included throughout the report with quotes and suggestions for improvement. They were especially considered in the section of recommendations in issues of design, implementation and Human Rights and Gender Equality.
The following tools were deployed:
- Desk review of programme documents (Appendix A)
- Survey of beneficiary families about their experience in MEND or RISE (see Appendix B for the research instruments)
- Semi-structured interviews with government officials and programme staff
- Focus groups with caseworkers, beneficiaries, and children of beneficiaries
- In-depth interviews with two client families to produce human interest stories who were indicated by program
Findings and Conclusions:
Both MEND and RISE were conceived in the context of the Social Protection Strategy wherein there was a lengthy discussion about the promotion of human rights, the profile of poverty and vulnerability in the country. The NSPS chose to prioritize the most vulnerable groups: children, particularly those that are income poor; ‘at risk’/ ‘unattached’ adolescents and youth; single mothers, teenage parents; unemployed; working poor; persons with disabilities; chronically ill and elderly.
MEND and RISE were designed to target the most vulnerable households (either indigent or very poor) and the benefit was given directly to the women through the debit cards, regardless of them being the heads of the household, except for one case of the beneficiaries interviewed. Both programmes clearly had a gender focus and a component of empowerment.
Having access to the cash transfer directly enabled the beneficiaries to make choices about how to spend their money – be it with groceries, school materials or other household needs.
Three other components of the programme clearly addressed gender. One was under the Pillar Family Dynamics where families were encouraged to establish tasks for each household member. The workshops addressed issues such as child abuse, labour market, budgeting, disaster preparedness. This educational component in the programme helped to bring awareness about injustices in household dynamics and power relations to help protect the most vulnerable and equally empower both men and women.
The third key empowering component for women and girls in the households was the counselling provided by the case workers, and, in Nevis, at school too. Counselling had an important motivational factor that, combined with the workshops, helped women feel they had control over their lives. This will be discussed in the following sections, where the quotes from beneficiaries exemplify how the programme helped women feel they were able to change major aspects of their lives.
- Update Social Protection Strategy with the involvement of civil society and think tanks in the country, strengthen and streamline coordination of social protection programmes and consider establishing a Social Protection Floor
- Establish protocols and more systematic management procedures with information systems to help with gains in efficiency
- Design a Monitoring and Evaluation system for scale up
- Promote high level dialogue and coordination within and among different ministries engaged in delivering social protection programmes as well as with Health and Education.
- Provide counselling and special support for children and youth in schools from beneficiary households across the country.
- Differentiate benefits according to the vulnerability of the household (single women, number of children etc.) in an integrated strategy of social protection, where various programmes address different target groups and offer benefits according to their specific needs.
- Design an exit strategy so that families that graduate from the programmes can have a sustainable route out of poverty.
- Enhance coordination between programme administrations on both Islands.
- Use the proxy means testing built into the National Household Registry for identifying potential beneficiaries, both from MEND/RISE scale up and for targeting social protections services.
- Invest in case worker capacity-building quality service delivery.
- Reinforce linkages of the programme with housing policies.
- Implementing partnership with communities/organizations who would be willing to provide extra-curricular programmes to assist the families could be very beneficial for the programmes.
- Communicate better with families about co-responsibilities and about the calendar of cash disbursement and amounts made available.
Lessons learned from the pilot programmes:
- In the MEND case, the executive team as well as the beneficiary families felt the need for a programme completion ceremony to highlight the gains made by families and give a sense of closure.
- The programme gave monetary assistance to the families through debit cards, which proved very effective in reducing stigma and facilitating the use of funds.
- Co-responsibilities were difficult to comply with for some of the families, and tasks time consuming as reported by some of the beneficiary households. Nonetheless, families were largely engaged with the tasks proposed.
- The more vulnerable families received housing assistance and the less vulnerable who paid rent or mortgage benefitted from systematic savings resulting from financial education. Attention should be paid to possible conflicts with eligible families outside the programme if MEND/RISE clients are prioritized, and formal eligibility criteria are advised.
- Careful case work has resulted in identifying older children who were able to assist in budget planning, household chores and school attendance, especially in families with illiterate parents. One should mind the possibility of overloading children and young people with such tasks, especially if these detract from their leisure and study time.
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