There should be a more inclusive response to the needs of the country’s senior citizens.

This was emphasized by Maricel Deloria, assistant bureau director of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Program Management Bureau, at a webinar recently organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) that featured the DSWD’s Social Pension (SocPen) program for indigent senior citizens.

“We could overlay the lens of the whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach as we come up with a more comprehensive response to the needs of the elderly—not only of the frail and the sickly but of those who are still physically healthy but have peculiar difficulties,” Deloria explained.

She also noted that some SocPen beneficiaries “may be poor and vulnerable but possess employable skills and could be engaged in employment”.

Moreover, Deloria urged the business sector to continue hiring “older persons in certain jobs that fit their skills”.

The labor market studies of local governments may be used as a reference in identifying capability training for the elderly. According to Deloria, this will develop the senior citizens’ skills that match the labor market opportunities at the city or municipal levels.

Meanwhile, she also underscored the importance of enhancing the health programs for senior citizens to minimize their medical expenses.

Given that most SocPen beneficiaries use the cash grant for medicines, Deloria said “including medical assistance as a major component of the program will institutionalize the role of key stakeholders in protecting and promoting the welfare of the elderly”.

She added that the DSWD may partner with the Department of Health to explore intensifying the provision of affordable and accessible medical services. The PhilHealth coverage for the elderly should also be enhanced.

Deloria also shared some of the agency’s initiatives to improve the program’s implementation. She noted that the DSWD is updating the SocPen program’s standard operating procedure and Citizen’s Charter.

“We are also participating in various interagency and legislative discussions on the proposed increase in subsidies as well as the schedules and modes of payment and distribution,” Deloria explained.

She added that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the adoption of a “mixed mode of subsidy distribution”.

“The [DSWD] partnered with the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to maximize the use of the [unconditional cash transfer] cash cards in the provision of SocPen subsidies. We have submitted 3.4 million registered SocPen beneficiaries to the LBP, and more than 300,000 cash cards were already distributed,” Deloria said. ###

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