September 2008, Consultations on Social Assistance Reforms
Between September 15th and 18th the Ministry of Labour and Social Development held consultative meetings with UNICEF, the World Bank and the European Commission to discuss the Kyrgyz system of state benefits for impoverished children and their families. Discussions focused in particular on how cash assistance should be delivered to beneficiaries, the size of such payments, and eligibility criteria.
The principal contribution made by the three international organizations is their broad experience of state benefits reform in a large number of countries, but they will also draft a set of recommendations to the Ministry which will be used to design a new state benefits system. The resulting new benefits model will be piloted in eight districts of the Republic in 2009.
The need for reform was confirmed by a UNICEF-supported assessment of the current state benefits system conducted earlier this year and in 2007. The three main problems identified were vagueness in the eligibility criteria, which allows erroneous decision-making on eligibility; disparities between the level of need and the amount of support given; and the protracted period claimants have to wait for payment.
Mitigating both poverty in general and child poverty in particular, the provision of state assistance and social services to vulnerable and disadvantaged children and their families constitutes a major element of the Republic’s social protection programme. These consultative meetings are accordingly of considerable importance. UNICEF’s participation is just one part of its programme of support to the Ministry of Labour and Social Development.