Social Service Agency hails the reform’s outcome
Representatives of the Social Service Agency (SSA), which is part of the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Social Affairs, say that ongoing changes have simplified access to state-provided assistance and improved the body’s performance overall.
The agency’s key duties include the provision of poverty assistance, health care and insurance programs. These services were the responsibilities of various state bodies prior to the reform.
SSA officials say that several goals were reached through consolidating the structures and bodies that provided these services prior to the changes. “[Those goals were to] simplify the administration processes, save material resources and create better comfort for the agency beneficiaries,” said SSA Director Irakli Nadareishvili, at a special seminar held in the Georgia’s coastal town Anaklia in mid July.
At the seminar, which aimed to raise awareness of the reform’s progress, Nadareishvili noted that “introducing a one window principle was very important in establishing a more convenient system.”
One of the achievements, according to the agency, is changing the scoring system for socially disadvantaged people.
Under this program, in accordance with the points calculated by the agency representative, socially vulnerable people are given assistance of a different kind. For instance, each member of an applicant household are given both financial assistance and a free insurance opportunity if the family scores over 57,000 points ; while households having points between 57,000-70,000 enjoy access to the insurance program alone.
This old Soviet-era system of distributing allowances has been largely criticized mostly because of the criterion of allocating the scores. Opponents slammed the fact that owning items such as TV sets, refrigerators and the like used to be considered a luxury and resulted in lower assistance packages for some families.
After the recent changes, the key focus in allocating scores has been on the volume of income of a family or potential sources of revenue, instead of factoring in the possession of particular items.
“Nowadays, the system is much more sophisticated and the service they provide is more comfortable. The SSA representative explained everything to me in details,” Maiko Djanashvili, a single woman who plans to apply for the poverty program, told Georgia Today.
SSA offers Djanashvili and anyone else with further question on its services to call its hotline. (832) 2 99 50 34
Another important change for the agency took place just some months ago: since April 2011, healthcare program of the ministry uniting about 24 different services has been transferred under the SSA control. This program includes assistance to people with infectious diseases, cancer, AIDS, tuberculosis and drug addiction. Emergency heart surgery has become SSA’s respobsibility as well. The agency provides its healthcare services into two major categories - fixed and non fixed allowances, depending on the specifics of the disease.
Transition of state-owned clinics’ budgets from fixed to individual system has also been “very important”, the agency’s officials said. This means that if previously, clinics would received fixed financing, as a result of the change they get funding depending on the flow of patients and most frequent diseases and treatment costs.
SSA representatives explained that this change makes it possible to save material resources, and on the other hand, helps the agency to clearly see the number of beneficiaries and their needs.
Neli Kalandadze, who is a pediatrician in one of such polyclinics, told Georgia Today that the new system is “better” as the numbers of patients are different in each clinic and thus fixed budgets “was not a good idea.”
Presently, Social Service Agency is represented in Georgia’s every regional center and consists of about 68 branches. More than 2,000 people are employed in the agency and its budget is one of the biggest - 1.5 billion lari, that once again underlines how important is this sector for the country.
By Kate Lekishvili