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Why not all poor families get social benefits and services in Georgia

© UNICEF Geo-2011/Davit Khizanishvili
Mr Roeland Monasch, UNICEF Representative in Georgia hands over the study on Barriers to Access to Social Services to Mr Andrew Urushadze, Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia at the media briefing in the UNICEF Georgia office.

New survey on barriers to access to social services presented by UNICEF

TBILISI, Georgia, 19 July 2011 – The preliminary results of a UNICEF study examining why not all poor families in Georgia are getting social assistance were presented at a media briefing organized at the UNICEF office and attended by Mr Andrew Urushadze, Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, Mr Irakli Nadareishvili, Head of the Social Service Agency and Mr Roeland Monasch, UNICEF Representative in Georgia.

Over the last six months, UNICEF, with the support of USAID, studied the effectiveness of the targeted social assistance programme. A survey carried out amongst the poorest 20 per cent of households in Georgia revealed some very positive findings:

  • 96 per cent of poor families have heard about the united database of socially unprotected families being the mechanism used by the Government to distribute cash assistance and health insurance.
  • Over 75 per cent of those that have heard about the database of socially unprotected families have applied.
  • Only 4 per cent of those that applied experienced any delay.
  • 79 per cent of respondents rated the Social Service Agency’s work as ‘Normal’, ‘Good’ or ‘Very Good’ – including those who were assessed but did not qualify to receive benefits.
  • For those that qualify for health insurance, they are satisfied with the coverage and services provided.

“The Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs should be pleased with the findings of the study; and UNICEF congratulates the Social Service Agency for its positive impact on the most vulnerable families in Georgia,” said Roeland Monasch, UNICEF Representative in Georgia. “However, there are some remaining challenges. 24 per cent of poor families in Georgia have not yet applied to the database. Many of these families don’t know how to apply, or are misinformed about the procedures. For a much smaller population, distance to the Social Service Agency Office and documentation are a problem. But these problems can be overcome, and I am confident that the Government will continue to improve its system.”

The report highlights that the free health insurance programme for the poor is effective, and should be expanded. 58 per cent of the families report that they have health insurance. Three fourths of them report they would not have been able to cover the cost of recent treatment in absence of insurance.  The main barrier to access health services is related to cost. The second challenge, much less than cost, is related to physical distance to a health facility. The burden of health related costs falls very heavily on those uninsured.

“The Government of Georgia runs a highly effective system,” Mr. Monasch continued, “however the socio-economic situation of the majority of families that applied to the database was rated above the ‘cut-off’ score to receive cash assistance1 and a third did not qualify for health insurance. UNICEF recommends that the Government considers elevating the ‘cut-off score’ to increase the reach and impact of social benefits”.

Other recommendations include the increase of representation of families with children in the social benefit system as these families are less likely to benefit from the universal pension system. This would also positively impact the broader child care reform process as families with children receiving social benefits will be less likely to place their children in residential institutions. An information awareness campaign to ensure every family in Georgia knows where and how to apply, with outreach to particularly difficult to reach areas is also recommended.

According to the 2009 Welfare Monitorng Survey, nearly a quarter of the households in Georgia are living in poverty. 28 per cent of Georgian children live among the poorest households. The study also revealed that pensions and targeted social assistance play an important role in reducing poverty. However, at the time of the study, over a third of officially poor households were not receiving social assistance of any kind. The survey ‘Barriers to Access to Social Services’ was developed to gain a better understanding of why significant shares of poor households in Georgia are not accessing their entitlements.
The government of Georgia uses targeted social assistance to deliver cash transfers and health insurance to the extreme poor. The Social Service Agency administers these benefits. In order to qualify, a family needs to be assessed by the Social Service Agency and registered in the United Database of Socially Unprotected Families.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Maya Kurtsikidze, Communication Officer, UNICEF Georgia
Tel: (995 32) 2 23 23 88, 2 25 11 30,  mob: (995 99) 53 30 71



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