The Seychelles Trading Company card programme will be phased out gradually and Praslinois will be the first to move away from the system as the outlet on the island will be closing down on June 15, 2021.

In preparation for this, the Agency for Social Protection (ASP) held a joint press conference yesterday morning with the Seychelles Trading Company (STC) to discuss details regarding the ending of the STC card programme on both Praslin and La Digue.

The press conference, held at the STC conference room, was attended by the principal secretary for social affairs, Linda William Melanie; chief executive of ASP, Brenda Morin; chief executive of STC, Christine Joubert; director of operations at ASP, Debbie Celtel; and STC’s system support operator for STC card, Stephanie Bonté.

“The STC card programme will continue on Mahé, especially for those who depend on some kind of help and therefore cannot manage their assistance. In the case of Praslin, STC informed the agency that its outlet will close on June 15, and the agency has completed the exercise to transfer all of this assistance through the applicants’ bank accounts. However, it has been confirmed that the outlet on La Digue will close on September 30. Individuals will keep getting part of their benefits through STC cards until the outlet is closed,” said ASP chief executive Morin.

The CEO added that for the month of May 2021, 58 individuals from Praslin and La Digue are still benefiting from the STC assistance to a sum of R96,548 monthly. There are 622 individuals who are receiving welfare assistance whether in part or in whole, through the STC cards, to a sum of R1,185,817 per month.

As for benefits provided for by statutory law, there are 913 beneficiaries who are benefiting from either invalidity, disability or retirement benefit to a sum of R1,649,343 per month. In addition, Ms Morin added, the agency is in talks with STC to return all the STC card balances which are not being claimed or used by applicants, which towards the end of 2020 amounted to R4,430,072.

The agency will also interview these people to understand why they are not using their cards. She added that they have 209 unclaimed cards from 2020 that have a sum of R1,016,951.

The STC card was introduced in March 2019 and ASP paid out R300,000 to design and set up the system. Since the agreement was signed, 8,329 cards were produced for applicants, but only 7,671 cards are active at the moment.

Regarding allegations that STC has been handing out cards to people who do not need the assistance, STC chief executive Joubert stated that the trading company does not have the authority to do such things as the money comes directly from ASP.

“ASP sends us a list of beneficiaries and we enter the names into our system, afterwards we print the cards and send them to ASP where they themselves hand the cards over to the beneficiaries,” said Ms Joubert.

Once the individuals receive their cards they come to STC and they are registered through finger scanning, explained Ms Joubert, adding that a card can only be used by the person whose name features on it.

The STC card was initially introduced to make sure that the beneficiary does not use that money to buy drugs or other substances, but Ms Morin said that even if the card system will not be used on Praslin and La Digue the agency is working closely with the Agency for Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation (Apdar) to help individuals who are addicted to drugs.