Historical Background Of The LEAP Programme
Under Ghana’s Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy II (GPRS II), the then Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare (MESW) was mandated to develop the National Social Protection Strategy (NSPS) which was completed in 2007. The primary objective of the NSPS is to reduce poverty in the country in line with the Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015. The NSPS also sought to provide an all-inclusive society through the provision of sustainable mechanisms for the protection of persons living in situations of extreme poverty, vulnerability and exclusion. Other components of the strategy were; the establishment of a New Social Cash Grant Scheme to provide basic and secure income for the most vulnerable households, better targeting of existing social protection programmes and a package of complementary inputs for beneficiaries of social protection programmes.
Based on the mandate of the National Development Planning Commission to include the poor and vulnerable in national planning and development, the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) Programme was established as the flagship social Protection programme of Ghana’s Social Protection Strategy. In support of this initiative, development partners like UNICEF, DFID and the World Bank as well as Civil Society Organizations such as Help Age Ghana also played key roles in the introduction of the LEAP Programme.
The establishment of the LEAP Programme was followed by a process in which a team of technical experts in the area of Social Protection and Social Policy was assembled to design an implementation manual for the Programme. The team of technical experts included specialists in social protection and social policy from Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, Uganda and Ghana. In Ghana the technical experts were drawn from the University of Ghana’s Centre for Social Policy studies (CSPS) and the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER). The technical experts developed an operations manual to guide the implementation of the Programme.
The first disbursement of cash grants was done in March, 2008 with 1, 654 households in 21 pilot districts paid. Prior to the introduction of the LEAP Programme, the Department of Social Welfare with support from UNICEF was implementing a National Health Insurance Scheme project through which health insurance premiums were paid for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) especially those orphaned by HIV/AIDS in the 21 districts. These 21 districts were therefore adopted for the implementation of the LEAP Programme through a pilot process.
In 2009, the LEAP Programme expanded its reach to 54 districts from 21 districts. This expansion was brought about as a result of the expansion of the eligibility criteria to include extremely poor households with elderly persons aged 65 years and above without productive capacity and persons with severe disabilities.
In 2010, a number of districts in eight regions of Ghana were affected by drought and floods. To alleviate the suffering caused by this challenge, the LEAP Programme was tasked to facilitate payments to the flood victims through the Emergency LEAP Programme.
In 2010, the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare contracted the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) which collaborated with the University of North Carolina to conduct a baseline study of the LEAP Programme. This was followed by an impact evaluation on the LEAP Programme between 2012 and 2013. Some of the findings of the impact evaluation revealed that the LEAP programme is making an impact on its beneficiary households. The Programme has positively impacted the education of children in beneficiary households in terms of enrolment, grade repetition and absenteeism among others. The Food and Agriculture Organisation conducted a qualitative impact evaluation study in 2012 on cash transfer programmes in seven African countries including Ghana. This study also known as the Transfer Project found a positive impact of LEAP on its beneficiary households as well as the local economies.
Furthermore, in 2012, the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministries of Health, Education, Agriculture, Local Government and Rural Development, Employment and Social Welfare and Women and Children’s Affairs for the development of a Common Targeting Mechanism (CTM). A CTM is a tool used jointly by the ministries which signed the MoU to identify extremely poor households. Through this MoU, the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) is required to register LEAP beneficiaries onto the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) free of charge. As a result, LEAP beneficiaries have been registered onto the NHIS without being charged any fees since 2012. Currently, (July – December, 2016) the LEAP Programme is conducting a nationwide exercise to register LEAP beneficiaries with the NHIS. The purpose of this exercise is to ensure access to health care services for the LEAP beneficiaries.
The Programme has also received support (funding, logistics, capacity building) from Development Partners. For instance between 2010 and 2012, the DFID of the U. K Government provided Institutional Strengthening Support (ISP) to the former Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare and the Department of Social Welfare. DFID continued its Phase 2 support to the LEAP Programme from 2013 to 2017 by providing Grant and Non Grant Support.
Since 2013, the LEAP programme has undergone a numbers of reforms and innovations all aimed at building efficient and effective systems. These reforms include upgrading of the Management Information System (MIS), transitioning from manual targeting and manual payments to electronic-targeting and electronic payments respectively and implementation of a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework developed in collaboration with the Oxford Policy Management (OPM). In order to facilitate the transition from a manual to an electronic payment system, the LEAP Programme conducted electronic payments through which grants were transferred to LEAP beneficiaries from the third quarter of 2013. Three Payment Service Providers (PSP); AYA Technologies, MTN Mobile Money and the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS) were contracted to facilitate the electronic payments. At the end of the pilot phase in February 2014, the Programme conducted an evaluation of the pilot through Catholic Relief Services. The recommendations of the evaluation culminated in the up-scaling of the electronic payments nation-wide in 2016.
The LEAP Programme has embarked on an expansion drive to target and enrol an additional 50,000 households onto the programme in 2016. This is to ensure that the programme meets its target of 250,000 households enrolled by the end of 2016.
In December 2015 the Cabinet of the Government of Ghana approved the establishment of the LEAP Management Secretariat as a Programme separate from the Department of Social Welfare and reporting to the Chief Director in the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection.