Ukraine: Digitalization of the social sphere

Ukraine adopted the Concept of e-Government Development in 2017, which provides comprehensive development of e-services in accordance with European requirements.

New initiatives in the area of digitalization of social sphere in Ukraine

Olena Tarasiuk, Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine

Ukraine adopted the Concept of e-Government Development in 2017, which provides comprehensive development of e-services in accordance with European requirements.

On September 21, 2020 the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine presented a new Strategy for Digital Transformation of the Social Sphere, which will create a unified information environment of the social sphere and show how the government contributes to social cohesion by using digital technologies.

As part of the digital transformation of the social sphere, the ministry will create a unified register of providers and recipients of social services and benefits, as well as introduce a system for their verification.  The register will be based on existing information systems, in particular on the basis of the Register of Insured Persons managed by the Pension Fund of Ukraine.

The Unified information system is introduced into the country’s Social policy practices to address problems like:

  • Complicated access of citizens to receive social support, including
    • absence of remote access;
    • the same person should apply personally to different bodies for different types of social support (these are the Pension Fund, the Social Protection Fund for the Disabled, the Social Insurance Fund, Local Social Protection Bodies, which duplicate each other’s functions). Their separate information systems are not integrated with each other, and the processing of appeals is often time consuming;
  • Lack of proper information of citizens about their social rights and their implementation, in particular, regular information about the provision of social benefits and other types of social support;
  • Complex and non-transparent procedures for allocating and implementing social expenditures;
  • Huge paperwork and huge paper archives;
  • Lack of control over operational processes in the social sphere;
  • Weak, insufficient, and partial integration of social sphere information systems with other state information resources;
  • And finally, due to the inflated bureaucracy, the significant administrative costs incurred by the state.

It is also planned that the implementation of the Unified Information System of the Social Sphere (ESIS), through which all types of state social support should be administered, will ensure the appointment, recalculation and implementation of social benefits, as well as will allow:

  • to solve all questions concerning reception of any social benefit and support through the unified social web portal;
  • access to the service regardless of the place of residence (registration);
  • remote access;
  • the avoidance of corruption in the process of providing social support;
  • the opportunity to inform citizens about their social rights and proper protection of these rights;
  • the reduction of administrative spending and bureaucratic apparatus in the social sphere at least twice;
  • transparent distribution and control of state social expenditures;
  • streamlining the planning and implementation of social benefits and verification of their recipients.

Currently, the following electronic services are available online by the Ministry of Social Policy:

  • Assignment of childbirth benefit introduced on March 30, 2017;
  • System of pre-registration of documents for housing subsidies introduced in 2015;
  • Municipal nanny introduced on January 1, 2019. As part of the municipal babysitting service, targeted compensation payment for the care of a child under three years of age is paid monthly to one of the parents, adoptive parents or guardians for services provided by legal entities or entrepreneurs (municipal babysitter), which are legally permitted. Such compensation is equal to the official Subsistence Minimum for children under the age of six and is provided to each child in care on the basis of a duly executed contract.

In addition, on July 10, 2019, the complex service “eBaby” for parents of newborns in 11 cities of Ukraine was launched, which will be implemented during 2020-2022. The “eBaby” project significantly simplifies the procedure for receiving services related to the birth of a child, namely, it provides:

  • state registration of the child’s birth;
  • residence registration;
  • entering information about the child in the Register of Patients;
  • registration in the State Register of Individuals – Taxpayers;
  • appointment of state assistance at the birth of a child;
  • issuance of certificates of parents of a large family and a child from a large family;
  • the appointment of assistance for children raised in large families;
  • determination of belonging to the citizenship of Ukraine;
  • entering information into the Unified State Demographic Register.

Thus, with one application, it is possible to receive around 10 public services from different authorities at the same time. To get all the documents for the child in the traditional way, parents have to visit 11 different government agencies and spend at least 10 days on it. The eBaby reduces the number of institutions to 1 – all services can be ordered at once in the same place.

The comprehensive service eBaby is already provided in the mode of offline testing in maternity hospitals, Administrative Services Centers, and Departments of State Registration of Civil Status Acts. After the beta test, the service will be available to parents all over Ukraine and will be provided online on the Unified State Web Portal of Electronic Services “Diia”.

The information platform Help is nearby has been introduced from April 8, 2020 to create conditions for attracting charities, NGOs, businesses, volunteers to help lonely elderly people, people with disability, families with children, in particular with children with disabilities in the quarantine period.

This platform is filled with information on the needs/applications from single elderly people, people with disabilities, families with children, summarized by structural units for social protection of the population of regional and Kyiv city state administrations. The received applications are processed as executive bodies, local governments, charitable and public organizations, socially responsible business, volunteers. The need for assistance is formed at the request of citizens to telephone “hot”-lines that work for local authorities. So far, more than 600,000 citizens have benefited from the assistance.

Assistance for children to natural persons-entrepreneurs for the period of quarantine Such assistance was introduced from May 5 to September 1, 2020. This electronic service for children was introduced to individual entrepreneurs, who have chosen the simplified taxation system and belong to the first and second groups of single tax payers. The amount of assistance was set at the Subsistence Minimum for children of appropriate age groups: for children under 6 years – 1,779 UAH, for children from 6 to 10 years – 2,218 UAH. As of September 3, 2020, there were 88,687 families that have received such assistance (115,244 children, including 59,914 children under the age of 6; 55,330 children under the age of 10).

Registration of citizens’ appeals on issues within the competence of the Ministry of Social Policy. Work with citizens’ appeals to the Ministry of Social Policy is aimed at ensuring citizens’ constitutional right to appeal, creating appropriate conditions for exercising this right.

In addition, the web portal of electronic services of the Pension Fund of Ukraine provides remote services through the personal accounts of citizens and employers, such as:

  • A new model of applying for a pension was introduced, which provides for the submission of documents exclusively in electronic form with an application to the service center once upon receipt of a pension certificate.
  • The mobile application “Pension Fund” was introduced, which provides access to electronic services of the Pension Fund of Ukraine.
  • A Pension Calculator was created to forecast the future old-age pension. When calculating the length of service and salary, all data available in the Pension Fund of Ukraine are used.
  • A system of digitization (retroconversion) of pension cases was introduced. More than 10 million existing pension cases need to be digitized. The work is planned to be completed by 2024, which will allow, in particular, releasing of more than 40 thousand m2 of space occupied by paper archives.
  • The display of information on labor activity, formed according to the reports of employers since 1998 is available in the personal account on the web portal of electronic services of the Fund. This will make it possible to abandon the paper workbook. Users have the opportunity to submit scanned copies of paper workbooks through the web portal of the Foundation’s electronic services.

EASPD Regional Provider Forum: Promoting community-based services for PwD

On 17th September the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) and the Republic Center for Support of persons with Intellectual Disability (PORAKA) hosted the first ever EASPD Regional Provider Forum.

EASPD Regional Provider Forum: The EU, Western Balkan and Eastern Partnership Regions must work together to promote community-based services for persons with disabilities

On 17th September the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) and the Republic Center for Support of persons with Intellectual Disability (PORAKA) hosted the first ever EASPD Regional Provider Forum. Bringing together over 90 participants online, the forum addressed the key challenges and trends of service provision in non-EU countries from the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership regions. Speakers came together to explore how the EU could work with these regions to strengthen their cooperation, while promoting the provision of sustainable, community-based support services for persons with disabilities. Read more

until 30/12/20 CfP: Welfare state and social policies in the CEE region

The peer-reviewed, open access scientific journal Problemy Polityki Społecznej/Social Policy Issues invites original paper submissions for a special issue to bring together papers exploring a broad array of research questions related to welfare state and social policies in the CEE region.

Journal of Social Policy Issues: Call for papers on Special Issue “Welfare state and social policies in the CEE region: past developments, present challenges and prospects for the future”, Deadline: 30 December 2020

University of Warsaw invites to submit original papers to the special issue of Problemy Polityki Społecznej. Social Policy Issues – a peer-reviewed, OPEN ACCESS journal, published by University of Warsaw.

The planned Special Issue “Welfare state and social policies in the CEE region: past developments, present challenges and prospects for the future” aims to bring together papers exploring a broad array of research questions related to welfare state and social policies in the CEE region, that may touch upon past developments, present challenges as well as future prospects. By CEE region we mean a large group of countries including Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine as well as sub-country regions, e.g. east of Germany.

The best paper submitted to this issue will receive an award of 400 euro. Read more

11-12/11/20: JPI Urban Europe Policy Conference

11-12 November 2020: Stepping up the game- Driving Urban Transitions JPI Urban Europe Policy Conference, Brussels

On the backdrop of the EU green deal and the Urban Agenda for the EU, Europe is now working on an ambitious strategy to become the first climate-neutral continent, and ensuring liveability, prosperity and well-being for all people in the process. To reach these ambitious goals, urban transformations play a crucial role. Without getting neighbourhoods, towns, municipalities, cities and urban areas right, a great number of efforts will be lost.

European Research Area corona platform

The platform is a one-stop shop providing comprehensive information about funding opportunities in relation to Coronavirus at European Union and national level.

European Research Area corona platform

The platform is a one-stop shop providing comprehensive information about funding opportunities in relation to Coronavirus at European Union and national level.

It offers continuously updated information about Horizon 2020 call deadline extensions, specific or related to Coronavirus funded and ongoing projects, FAQs and other useful links. In cooperation with country correspondents, the platform maintains a dedicated section for national activities, funding opportunities, initiatives and projects in the Member States and other European countries.

The ERA corona platform is one of the 10 priorities of the European Commission and national ministries agreed on the first ERAvsCorona action plan. Read more

Coronavirus: Erasmus+ mobilised for a strong response to the pandemic

The Commission has adopted a revision of the Erasmus+ 2020 Annual Work Programme, providing an additional €200 million to boost digital education and training and promote skills development and inclusion through creativity and the arts.

The Commission has adopted a revision of the Erasmus+ 2020 Annual Work Programme, providing an additional €200 million to boost digital education and training and promote skills development and inclusion through creativity and the arts.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disruptive impact on education and training, with new ways of teaching and learning requiring innovative, creative and inclusive solutions. … The Erasmus+ programme will support projects to enhance digital teaching, learning and assessment in schools, higher education and vocational training. It will also provide opportunities for schools, youth organisations and adult learning institutions to support skills development, to boost creativity and to enhance social inclusion through the arts, together with the cultural and creative sectors. Calls for proposals for projects in these areas will be published in the coming weeks. Interested organisations should get in touch with their Erasmus+ National Agency. Read more

Armenia: Government’s Response to COVID-19

Up-to date, the Government has introduced 22 socio-economic support programs aimed at addressing the needs and ensuring the proper social protection of the population mostly suffered as a result of the pandemic. These programs, in accordance with the defined criteria, inter alia, include provision of a financial support to families with children.

Brief Information on the Armenian Government’s Response to COVID-19

Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of the Republic of Armenia

Since declaring a state of emergency on March 16 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Government of the Republic of Armenia has undertaken a number of anti-crisis measures and initiatives to slow the spread of the virus, protect the population against infection and mitigate its negative impacts on the socially vulnerable groups.

Up-to date, the Government has introduced 22 socio-economic support programs aimed at addressing the needs and ensuring the proper social protection of the population mostly suffered as a result of the pandemic. These programs, in accordance with the defined criteria, inter alia, include provision of a financial support to families with children under 14 years old and socially vulnerable families with children under the age of 18, families eligible for family and social benefits, single or unemployed pregnant women, as well as dismissed persons, private sector employees and business enterprises mostly affected by the crisis. The response measures, in the presence of the stipulated terms and conditions, also envisage partial compensation of the communal expenses, as well as students’ education fees and loans. Social assistance has been provided to various socially vulnerable population groups in cooperation with international organizations, including financial assistance in a form of cash payments, food baskets, disinfection and hygienic materials.

Steps have been carried out to improve the quality and targeting of the provided support services. These activities include arrangement of delivery of pensions and social benefit packages to beneficiaries, so that they can receive them without leaving home. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has put into operation a new hotline for answering the questions of citizens related to support programmes provided by the Government. From March to July 2020, the average monthly number of calls was 18,000. However, in April, due to the newly commenced social response programs, the average daily number of calls was between 30,000 to 35,000.

All relevant measures have been undertaken to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 in 24-hour social care and protection institutions, ensure the security and safety of their residents as well as provide a full range of services. At daily support centres food baskets have been provided for vulnerable children-recipients of services. To ensure the continuity of services during the state of emergency in response to the pandemic, social-psychological, knowledge and skills development services have been provided remotely to persons with disabilities at daily centres that provide care and social-rehabilitation services. The specialists have carried out their works both concurrently and via video means of online platforms, such as Zoom, Viber and Facebook. For preparation of tasks, the tools of Google and Quizizz platforms have been introduced and applied.

In order to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities and to ensure their social protection, a number of measures have been applied, including the prolongation of the validity of the disability status without the need to reassess it as originally stipulated in the law, which means that people with disabilities will continue to receive the assistance as prescribed by the law. Taking into account the difficulties caused by the restrictions on movement during the state of emergency, the validity period of the state certificate for obtaining the assistive means for persons with disabilities has also been extended.

More detailed information on the state programs to address social and economic impacts of COVID-19 can be found on the website of the Government of the Republic of Armenia.

Report: From BiH to Austria via Slovenia: migration and posting of 3rd country nationals

The report focuses on the specific regional labour mobility patterns between Bosnia and Her zegovina (BiH) as a third country, Slovenia as a sending country, and Austria as a receiving country.

Report: From Bosnia and Herzegovina to Austria via Slovenia: migration and posting of third country nationals in the EU by S. Danaj, L. Geyer, S. Cukut Krilić, K. Toplak, & M. Vah Jevšnik

In this new study conducted in the frame of the project Con3Post– Posting of Third Country Nationals. Mapping the trend in the construction sector, our colleagues Sonila Danaj and Leonard Geyer in collaboration with the colleagues Sanja Cukut Krilić, Kristina Toplak & Mojca Vah Jevšnik of the ZRC SAZU – Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Slovenia investigate the main characteristics of the trend of posting third country nationals to work in the EU construction sector. The report focuses on the specific regional labour mobility patterns between Bosnia and Her zegovina (BiH) as a third country, Slovenia as a sending country, and Austria as a receiving country. Read more

until 15/10/2020 EaSI call: Supporting people in vulnerable situations

This call for proposals aims to support existing or new partnerships in testing innovative approaches supporting in particular the delivery of Principle 14 of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

EaSI call: Establishing and testing integrated interventions aimed at supporting people in (the most) vulnerable situations, Deadline: 15 October 2020

This call for proposals aims to support existing or new partnerships in testing innovative approaches supporting in particular the delivery of Principle 14 of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

The call will support innovative and experimental local/regional-level projects aimed at putting in place comprehensive strategies, mechanisms and services ensuring a holistic approach to support people in (the most) vulnerable situations.

EESPN countries that can participate in the call include EU Member States, Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.

The deadline for the call is: 15 October 2020.

Please read the details here

North Macedonia: Government’s Response to COVID-19

Since declaring the existence of a state of emergency on 18 March 2020, the Government of North Macedonia has swiftly introduced a series of temporary measures to prevent and mitigate the negative economic and social consequence of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemics. Until now, in addition to the public health prevention measures, three packages of Governmental measures have been put in use…

North Macedonia’s Government Response to COVID-19

Aleksandra Slavkoska & Ana Georgievska (European Centre’s NLO North Macedonia), Ministry of Labor and Social Policy of North Macedonia

Since declaring the existence of a state of emergency on 18 March 2020, the Government of North Macedonia has swiftly introduced a series of temporary measures to prevent and mitigate the negative economic and social consequence of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemics. Until now, in addition to the public health prevention measures, three packages of Governmental measures have been put in use (“Covid1”, “Covid 2”, “Covid 3”) providing financial assistance to companies as direct support with wage subsidies, tax reliefs, credit support, zero interest loans, support to vulnerable households, unemployment measures, support for education, and other additional regulatory and legislative measures allowing bigger flexibility of the existing procedures related to managing economic activities, trade, etc. This article focuses on the employment retention measures, worker protection measures and support for the most vulnerable individuals.

With regard to key measures aimed at protecting jobs, North Macedonia has implemented a set of employment retention measures. The following two measures are by far the most important: Firstly, a wage subsidy covering the net minimum wage (14,500 MKD or 236 EUR) for the months of April and May for eligible firms and workers; and secondly, a social insurance contribution subsidy, covering 50 per cent of actually paid social security contributions, up to a maximum amount of 5,752 MKD (or 94 EUR) for eligible firms and workers, for April, May and June. This amount corresponds to the maximum amount payable on a net wage of 39,900 MKD. This is conditional on retaining the same number of workers until July (for the minimum wage) and until August (for the social contributions).

The lockdown immediately affected some workers, especially those outside the formal economy, as well as some vulnerable categories who were already out of work. In response, the Government introduced a set of measures aimed at protecting those who have lost their jobs and other sources of income, as well as their families. On two occasions, the Government relaxed the eligibility rules for the main instrument providing a social protection floor, that is, the guaranteed minimum income. According to these new rules established by the Decree in April, the status of “materially deprived household” can be conferred already one month after combined household income did not exceed the guaranteed minimum income level—the pre-lockdown requirement was three months. Previously, eligibility criteria excluded any type of property. Currently, guaranteed minimum income applicants may still be eligible even if they own an apartment (which the household uses as primary residence), a car more than five years old and a plot of land for construction not exceeding 500 square metres. In addition, workers who lost their job because of non-performance, left the job of their own accord or were shifted from the “active” to the “passive” register of the Employment Service Agency, have become eligible to apply for the guaranteed minimum income. Guaranteed minimum assistance beneficiaries are at the same time allowed to continue exercising the entitlement to the cash benefit for covering part of their households’ energy consumption costs for the months from April to September 2020.

Moreover, about 17,000 children coming from households that are of guaranteed minimum assistance beneficiaries were provided with access to the entitlement to child and education allowance, with the ultimate goal of alleviating child poverty. School-age children coming from socially insecure families were provided with mobile Internet cards so that they could follow on-line classes.

Importantly, under the “COVID 3” package, the rules governing eligibility of unemployment benefit were relaxed temporarily so that people who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 between 11 March and 30 April became eligible to claim two-month unemployment benefits regardless of their years of service and the ground for termination of the employment contract.

The Decree with the Force of Law on the Application of the Law on Labor Relations adopted by the Government made it possible for women workers who are absent from work due to pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood and adoption to continue to receive compensation to salary until the cessation of the interim measures undertaken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In fact, upon the closure of schools and kindergartens, the first measures taken by the Government of North Macedonia were those aimed at protecting one of the working parents of minors under the age of 10 who need care, pregnant women and chronically ill people. In this regard, the Government instructed employers in the public sector and recommended to private sector employers, for employees who have a minor child up to 10 years of age for whom home care is necessary, that one parent be released from work and work activities and that their absence during this period should be recorded as a justified absence by the employer, while pregnant women and the chronically ill should be released temporarily from work and work activities (that is, not go to work and remain in their homes).

Through the Centers for Social Work, more than 600 packages with protective and hygiene products were provided and distributed to the most vulnerable families, especially those living in substandard conditions. Additionally, in the period from May to July, 4,300 food and hygiene kits are to be distributed to social security beneficiaries, low-income foster families, and families that are guaranteed minimum assistance beneficiaries, who have a child with disabilities in their family.

Furthermore, the elderly and frail, the socially isolated, single parents, and the homeless have been provided with psychological support by telephone every day from 10 am to 2 pm.  The Red Cross has established a support line for the purposes of the service for provision of food, hygiene products, and medicines for the elderly, frail, and lonely.

The soup kitchens in the territory of the Republic of North Macedonia continued to work during this period, thus providing the vulnerable groups of citizens with meals or lunch packages. As one way to support the response in terms of the impact of COVID-19 in the country, specific services for delivery of groceries, medicines, raising public awareness for dealing with COVID-19, etc. have been established in the country.  In 27 municipalities, people have been engaged to deliver services to 1,500 beneficiaries, that is, mainly to the elderly, persons with disabilities, and other persons exposed to social exclusion.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy have provided municipalities with assistance and support to implement the activities aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 by hiring 50 people to do public work for a period of one month.  What is more, efforts have been made to ensure that the persons engaged in public works are Roma people at social risk.

Many of the most vulnerable Roma families who collect scrap metal and/or plastic bottles (PET), or do other similar activities for their livelihood, have been unable to perform them, which generates a state of helplessness, as well as lack of food and basic means of protection.  As an urgent response, they were provided with help in food, disinfectants, and informative materials (leaflets) in Romani language with marked graphically displayed measures for protection against COVID-19.  The aid kits were distributed to 80 families.

With the aim of protecting people with disabilities who need to be accompanied, namely, completely blind people, people using wheelchairs, and people with moderate and severe intellectual disabilities, given that they belong to the group of citizens who are at higher risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19, the Government adopted a Conclusion that exempts from work public administration employees who need to be accompanied. This measure was also given as a recommendation to the private sector. See more here & here