The Bridge Jamaica Project

The Bridge Jamaica Project

In June 2007 the Organisation of American States (OAS) launched the Network-Based Capacity Building on Social Protection Strategies in the Caribbean Programme in Kingston, Jamaica. This is a pilot initiative involving three beneficiary countries namely, Jamaica, Trinidad and St. Lucia. The programme seeks to enhance capacity to develop social protection strategies through the transference of knowledge, skills and lessons learnt from the Government of Chile’s Programa Puente and Chile Solidario.

The Jamaica Social Investment Fund, in playing its role in poverty alleviation, is embarking on a pilot of the Puente Programme. This pilot initiative, Bridge Jamaica, will provide a new perspective and assist in improving the quality and coverage of social protection strategies/programmes in Jamaica.

Bridge Jamaica is being implemented on a pilot phase with an initial 96 families in inner city communities in Kingston & St. Andrew and St. Catherine. These communities include Tawes Meadows, Knollis, Shelter Rock, Lauriston, Africa and Central Village in St. Catherine and Whitfield Town, Passmore Town/Brown’s Town, Federal Gardens and Jones Town in Kingston & St. Andrew. These communities are also included among those targeted by the Inner City Basic Services Project (ICBSP), one of the five community development projects that the JSIF is currently implementing.

Bridge Jamaica is a joint collaboration among the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), the Ministry of Labour & Social Security (MLSS) through the Public Assistance Division, the Organization of American States (OAS), the Solidarity and Social Investment Fund (FOSIS) in Chile and the JSIF.

The underlying objective of Bridge Jamaica is to link disadvantaged families to their rights. That is to say, the intervention will assist families to access basic services or benefits which, owing to their condition, they would not normally have access to. These or benefits all relate to the seven supporting pillars of the bridge, namely:

  • Personal identification

  • Health

  • Education and Training

  • Family Dynamics

  • Housing Conditions and Disaster Management

  • Employment

  • Income

Each family’s individual commitment to the project and their resolve to improve their living conditions will be critical to the success of the project. Of equal importance to the success of the project is the support that will be offered to the families to assist them to live up to their commitments. It is within this context that the creation of a Social Protection Network (SPN) is included in the design of the project as a means of providing guarantees to the families to enable them to live with dignity.

How will Bridge Jamaica Work?

It is envisioned that by August 2010, some 96 female-headed households will:

  • Be registered in the programme and sign family contracts

  • Participate in support sessions with a Family Support Counsellor to identify their individual needs

  • Receive assistance through the Social network under the guidance of the family support counsellor in overcoming poverty by achieving the minimum conditions under the 7 pillars of the bridge

  • Receive grief, career development, spousal abuse and healthy lifestyle counselling
    Access small grants and loans under the micro-finance component of the ICBSP

Prospects for sustainability and impact of the programme

The prospects for sustainability of Bridge Jamaica are high given that:

  1. It is being implemented as a gap-filler that complements three ongoing national family support programmes. Whereas traditionally, focus has been on community development, Bridge Jamaica is meeting the critical need for interventions at the household level. Furthermore, Bridge Jamaica includes the added dimension of psychosocial aspect of ongoing programmes.

  2. The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), the agency responsible for developing, monitoring and evaluating programmes, has sanctioned Bridge Jamaica and a multi-agency steering Committee that is being chaired by the PIOJ has been formed to provide oversight of the intervention.

  3. The fact that Puente is being implemented in other Caribbean countries – St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago - is attracting attention from regional financing agencies. Further, it is envisioned that the Bridge Jamaica will be incorporated into the impending Jamaica Community Investment Project (JCIP) which is funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). This offers exciting prospects for an expansion of the programme to rural areas following the initial 2-year pilot in urban communities.