Dear Editor,
We must all advocate for effective engagement of our elderly citizens and pensioners in planning preparedness and ongoing responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of pension payments for 2021 and onwards. The PPP / C Administration kept its promise to our pensioners by increasing pension to $ 25,000.
The COVID-19 pandemic poses a significant risk to elderly people. Because of their reduced immunity and the increased likelihood of pre-existing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart diseases and cancers, the infection can lead to serious complications, and even death. It is essential to take precautions to reduce the risk of transmitting infection to our elderly people when collecting pensions. Pay points, where our pensioners collect pensions or other cash payments, pose a significant risk of exposure to the virus, as many other people doing business other than collecting pensions, who may receive the infection, visit these locations. many continue to disregard COVID-19 guidelines, disrespect and abuse our elderly in these settings.
Pension paying agencies, alongside community leaders, our Government and commercial partners, need to take steps to protect our elderly people at pay points, and provide additional guidance to encourage behavior changes among the people who visit them. This requires an appropriate and co-ordinated response in consultation with our elderly and community leaders – who can provide input on how to reach older people across different contexts, and in line with basic human rights.
Administering pension payments during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 will continue to be a challenge.
Paying agencies can take a range of steps to avoid the potential exposure of older people to the virus at payment points, ensuring that they are paid first; have physical contact with fewer people, and receive information about COVID-19.
Several measures are already in place that are staggering pay days to prevent large groups of people congregating. Older people should be allowed early morning access to payment points, and should be prioritized over the general population who are also waiting in line for cash transfer payments.
Alternatively, consider having specific dates for paying older people only. On those particular days, other individuals collecting cash transfers should be made aware of the schedule, so they do not go to these locations.
If possible, we can pay pensions less often, like maybe every two or three months. This should be the full amount for the combined advance payment period, rather than delaying the combined payment.
Where payments are collected at retail traders, banks and other large gatherings, reach out to retailers to develop appropriate charges management plans and restrict physical contact in these areas.
Regular communication with the public and at-risk populations is one of the most important steps to help prevent infections, save lives, and reduce harmful consequences of COVID-19 with reference to older people.
Pension providers are well placed to share public health information, but they should take these considerations into account. Information, education and communication materials on the virus should be shared at all pension pay points, and where possible trained health workers or volunteers should be on site to share information and answer questions.
Despite media outreach, confusion over new processes is still likely, especially in hard-to-reach rural communities. Staff need to be available outside retailers and pay points to explain the process to those with concerns.
We must brief community leaders and committees on pension payment arrangements, and arrange community and social health workers to share information with all households, especially in rural settings.
It is important to produce a list of households where older people live, either from pension databases or through community identification. These houses could be targeted in information sharing campaigns. Our older citizens must not be stigmatized or discriminated against. All engagement campaigns should include specific measures to reach older people, with practical information to reduce their exposure to the virus. We must remember that they are more likely to have low levels of literacy, physical or sensory disabilities that prevent them from accessing information or participating in community life, and are less likely to be exposed to mainstream media.
However, with all this being said, our Government must start exploring electronic pension payment systems for the future, as these can eliminate the need for older people to attend pay points, and thus reduce the risk of Future release to COVID-19. Cash cards, mobile e-wallets or payments collected by retail traders are all possible options, depending on context and ability.

David Adams

Previous articleNexGen Golf Academy continues to improve standards