By Gacheru Maina
Kenya's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Uhuru Kenyatta has announced an increase in the money allocated to the cash transfer programme for older people as well as orphaned and vulnerable children. (c) HelpAge International Hon. Kenyatta allocated an additional Kshs 470 million (USD 5.4 million) to the social pension, known as the "Older Persons Cash Transfer", bringing the allocation to Kshs 1 billion (USD 11.4 million). Older people in the programme will now receive Kshs 2,000 (USD 25) a month as to opposed the previous 1,500.
Older activists met with the Ministry of Finance
The announcement comes following support from HelpAge International to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development on the cash transfer. This move also cements the achievements of last year's Age Demands Action campaign by HelpAge Kenya and older people in Kenya.
They met with the Ministry of Finance and the Budget team led by the Permanent Secretary and demanded an increase in the number of districts receiving the cash transfers as well as in the amount allocated.
There is still much to do
Approximately 6% of the older population now stand to benefit from the scheme. This signals, however, that there is still much to do to ensure income security in old age in Kenya.
After the motion for a universal pension to everyone over 60 was submitted in parliament last week, the announcement raises questions about the future of the programme and how long it will take to emerge as an entitlement for all.
Andrea McPherson, HelpAge's Social Protection Policy Officer, said of the announcement: "We welcome this step forward by the government, but remain optimistic about the motion for the universal pension tabled last week. The government faces a great challenge now in identifying who will benefit and who will not.
"80% of older Kenyans do not have access to formal income security, and are therefore vulnerable to poverty. The proposal for a minimum income in old age would be more cost effective and have a substantial impact on poverty beyond that of older people."
Kenya at the forefront of social protection in the region
Although the expansion of the Older Persons Cash Transfer is slow, it demonstrates that Kenya is at the forefront in the region in providing social protection for its citizens.
The increased allocation has come as part of additional investment in other cash transfers to vulnerable children and people with disabilities, which see Kenya closer to achieving the minimum package of social protection as defined by the African Union Social Policy Framework.