Social welfare: from workhouses to social protection centres

Social welfare: from workhouses to social protection centres
Central Moscow Archive
Social workers have their professional holiday on 8 June. They provide needed assistance to people with limited mobilityt, orphans and families with many children. offers a glimpse of social welfare history – its evolution in Moscow and its latest achievements.

Russian social work has an eventful past and well-developed tradition. Children, seniors, the disabled and other people in difficult circumstances have always been social work’s top priority. The system of state philanthropy emerged in the early 17th century and was run by several government offices with emphasis on sheltersor closed charity institutions.

The first social welfare establishments

The construction of Moscow’s first workhouse began in accordance with Peter the Great’s 1703 decree calling for able-bodied beggars to earn their living by making and selling handicrafts. An orphanage and a maternity ward for low-income women opened in 1764.

A royal decree on the construction of housing for the poor was issued in 1670. Previously, poorhouses were part of church philanthropy and were built next to churches. The Public Assistance Office was established in 1775 for poorhouse and workhouse management in Moscow and other gubernias.

Public assistance offices were autonomous commercial entities in the early 19th century. At that time, legislation incentivisd these businesses stipulating government grants and reductions in fines in favour of charity institutions to support their enterprise.

Municipal philanthropic offices began to open toward the end of 1894 and, to an extent, streamlined charity management. Their appearance attracted a large number of volunteers to charity allowing for every application and personal problem to be treated individually. That was how the social patronage network began to emerge in Moscow.

In 1909 social patronage offices ran 31 poorhouses, 44 orphanages, 5 mixed-type shelters for children and seniors, and 13 apartment houses with tiny charitable flats. These offices also organised public relief during such calamities as epidemics, fires and floods, and did much to collect and systematise information about the living conditions of various social groups. Social patronage offices’ total budget reached 500,000 roubles in 1908. The impressive sum was obtained from City Hall subsidies, charitable concert and performance returns, private donations, membership fees, etc. The reserve fund approached 800,000 roubles.

Revolution launches welfare reforms

The Social Welfare Statute limited government aid to persons “whose means of sustenance come from their own labour without exploitation of other persons’ labour”. This new law (of 1918) entitled workers to medical aid, maternity grants, and old age and disability pensions.

The administrative welfare system took shape gradually. The 1st Congress of Social Welfare Commissars was convened in Moscow on 25 June 1918 and made strides by establishing an organisation responsible for the welfare management on the national, gubernia and local scale.

The People’s Commissariat (ministry) of Social Welfare engaged in mother and child protection, work in orphanages, supervision of underage criminal suspects, distribution of food rations, the welfare of the military’s disabled and healthcare.

Social insurance appeared with the All-Russia Central Executive Committee decree of 22 December 1917 “On Social Health Insurance”, which stipulated that all medical services, including obstetric, assistance and the supply of medications should be free of charge. The Insurance Council under the People’s Commissariat of Labour was responsible for the general supervision of social insurance, and represented government offices, trade unions and other public organisations. When the USSR People’s Commissariat of Labour was disbanded in July 1933 together with all its local offices, all its duties were passed to the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions and the staff moved to the sectoral trade unions, into whose hands social insurance was shifted.

As far back as 1919 job placement was regarded as a weapon to be used against begging. It was no remedy as the number of people on the verge of starvation was too great for the emergent welfare system to cope with, and miserly social grants made their beneficiaries turn to begging for survival.

Focusing on children

According to rough estimates for 1926, there were 7,000-8,000 beggars in Moscow, with a pronounced trend in the increase of child homelessness. The state realised that the problem could not be addressed without public involvement. And with this in mind the first Children’s Friend public organisation was established in 1923 at the initiative of the Moscow Gubernia Executive Committee’s Commission for Children’s Affairs.

An emergency government programme for rescuing children with an emphasis on the evacuation of orphanages was adopted during the Great Patriotic War. Children of 976 orphanages had been relocated to safety from battle areas and endangered localities by the end of 1942. Several hundred thousand children were removed from Moscow and Leningrad in the first months of the war.

The number of orphaned children was skyrocketing: 534,000 in 1944 against 260,000 in 1941 and 366,000 at the end of 1942. Adoption and guardianship were widespread. Roughly 350,000 children were adopted or put in foster care at the end of the war.

An employment programme for disabled person was launched in Moscow during the war.

Social welfare acquired present-day patterns in the dynamic effort of the 1990s, when social problems gained prominence. As Moscow executive bodies were reorganised and as it became vital to improve all kinds of social aid to seniors and disabled persons, the Moscow Government issued its Resolution No. 145 of 8 October 1991, “On the Establishment of the Committee for Social Welfare and Pensioners and Disabled Persons Relief”, which entitled all disabled persons to financial aid.

Social protection

In 1992 a first-ever comprehensive programme for the social support of specific categories of Muscovites was adopted on the basis of the above resolution. Around this time social welfare bodies were renamed “social protection bodies” and the Committee for Social Protection of the Public was established.

Over 1.3 trillion roubles were allocated to the social protection of low-income persons from the city budget and the extra-budgetary Social Protection Fund in 1994.

The 623 home care offices catered for 74,721 against 30,085 in 1990.

Social service centres’ development had never been as dynamic as they were in 1997-1998. New premises were opened, the range of services being offered increased, and new personnel was recruited. The first half of the 1990s was characterised by quantitative accumulation: the establishment of social service centres itself was so revolutionary that it took time to store up experience and evaluate their pros and cons, potential and limitations.

In compliance with the Moscow Government’s decree of 31 December 2002, “On Creating Conditions for Pension Services to the Moscow Population by the Pension Fund of the Russian Federation”, pensions and other social grants are were to be paid, as of 1 January 2003, by a government body – the branch of the Pension Fund of the Russian Federation for Moscow and the Moscow Region.

Monetary payments replaced benefits in kind in 2005. From 1 January 2005, welfare beneficiaries were entitled to a benefits package and the right for monthly monetary grants. The package amounted to 450 roubles and was comprised of commutation, free medication, health resort treatment and transportation passes. The law allowed beneficiaries to choose between receiving the benefit package or the relevant sum of the services in cash as of January 2006.

Over a half of the city budget was earmarked for social programme implementation in 2011, when Moscow became one of the world’s top three megalopolises in terms of the size of the city budget.

The Department for Social Protection passed a state programme for the social support of Muscovites for the years 2012-2016, and later prolonged it through 2018. The programme focuses on the improvement of the lives of persons who are entitled to social support and on reducing the number of low-income people through targeted aid.

With this goal in view, social services were upgraded, with new forms being introduced, and home help being developed. Services to seniors and disabled persons were provided in 2014 by 34 territorial social service centres, 3 social service centres, and 32 inpatient facilities.

As of 2014, pensioners registered to a particular residence for more than 10 years are entitled to extra grants to raise their income up to the city social standard (12,000 roubles at that time), and those with less than 10 years in their current location can be eligible for additional subsistence income (8,502 roubles).

Moscow possesses an automated system of city registration of persons with disabilities and an automated system for the registration of infrastructure projects and their adjustment to disabled persons’ needs.

Moscow’s Department of Labour and Employment merged last year with the Department for Social Protection to form a new executive body, the Department of Labour and Social Protection.

Social protection in Moscow is being updated and reformed after Federal Law No. 442-FZ of 28 December 2013, “On the Fundamentals of Social Services in the Russian Federation” which entered into force on 1 January 2015.

Without a doubt social work has entered an entirely new level: this includes pension management, social services and the work of non-profit charities. What matters most for social workers is not to rest on their laurels and to go on improving their field of activity.

Summarising 2015

A total of 323.8 billion roubles were allocated to city social programmes in 2015.

Red letter day payments to seniors were increased: lump sums for the 70th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 and the 74th anniversary of the rout of German troops near Moscow.

As of 1 March 2016, the city social standard income was increased by 2,500 roubles to 14,500 roubles, taking into consideration that pension indexation might lag behind this year’s inflation rate. Monthly compensatory payments to pensioners who took part in the defence of Moscow in 1941 were increased by 1,220 roubles to 4,000 roubles.

At present Moscow possesses 37 territorial social service centres and 94 branch offices, whose 9,755 social workers provide social and medical services at home for 131,000 Muscovites.

Electronic social certificates are being introduced, starting this year, for discount purchases of children’s goods by low-income families.

The number children being adopted by Russian families is growing steadily: 88 per cent of children were  adopted (18,131)  from orphanages, against 74.8 per cent in 2010. Currently only 2,473 children are staying in orphanages.

Grants to adoptive and foster parents have increased by 10 per cent, as of January 1, to make 16,500-28,390 roubles a month depending on children’s number, age and health.

Moscow Government Minister Vladimir Petrosyan, head of the Department of Labour and Social Protection, tells about Moscow’s social policy in the next few years.