Why not all poor families get social benefits and services in Georgia
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:
“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.
For further information, please contact: