The Dominican Republic Adjusts its Solidaridad Program to Help the Poor
Conditional cash transfers programs have proven over the years to be an effective tool to reduce poverty and inequality in the short term. The transfer program in the Dominican Republic introduced in 2005, known as Solidaridad, has had just such positive effects on health, improving the weight and height of children under five years old and helping to reduce teen pregnancies and the probability of young people repeating grades or dropping out of secondary school.
The IDB has played a key role in supporting the design and implementation of the transfer program as well as other improvements to the Dominican Republic’s social safety net. The country has improved its targeting mechanisms, strengthened the compliance of beneficiaries with their co-responsibilities, enhanced the links between the supply of services and case management, and significantly increased investments to improve the quality of primary health care services.
To further maximize the impact of Solidaridad, the government, with technical assistance from the IDB, moved in 2012 to consolidate the program with another social program called Progresando, which supports socio-educational interventions. The merger has enabled the conditional cash transfer program to adopt a more systematic approach to improving health education by expanding its geographical reach and boosting the number of case workers working regularly with families through monthly home visits. The ration of households per caseworker has decreased to 50 from 350 before the merge.
Caseworkers help connect families to a wide range of government social services and also verify whether households are meeting their co-responsibilities, which include sending their children to school and taking them for regular health check-ups.
The country has also added new features to the program, which is now known as Progresando con Solidaridad. These include helping young people in beneficiary households access job training, and improving the coverage and design of education co-responsibilities in order to encourage teens to stay in school. Monthly stipends have been extended to families in the program with children in school up to 21 years old, and the amount of the stipend is now pegged to grade levels—the more teens advance in secondary school, the greater the stipend their families receive from the program.
In 2013, the IDB approved another loan to help the Dominican Republic expand the reach of Progresando con Solidaridad, which is now the pillar of the country’s social safety net. The loan will also finance an impact assessment of the revamped conditional cash transfer program to determine whether the recent changes are working. Besides benefiting the Dominican Republic, the findings will provide important lessons for other countries in the region seeking to maximize the development impact of similar programs.