Public Chamber report on involvement of NGOs in social services
The Russian Federation’s Public Chamber publicises a report on the involvement of NGOs in social service provision
At the final Community Forum meeting of the year, the Federation’s Public Chamber announced the results of a public monitoring exercise on SONGO access to the social service market.
Why such monitoring is needed
Each year, the Russian Ministry of Economic Development prepares a report on the implementation of measures taken by Federation constituent entities to ensure SONGO access to the social service sector. Members of the Public Chamber then compare official data against the results from public surveys.
“We asked regional Public Chambers to complete large and detailed questionnaires and to organise consultation meetings with NGO resource centres. We received responses from 46 regional Public Chambers including the Trans-Baikal region, Bashkortostan, Khakassia, Ulyanovsk and Yaroslavl”, said Elena Topoleva, Chair of the Public Chamber Commission for the Development of the Non-Profit Sector and Support to NGOs. The Public Chamber also asked executive agencies to find examples of good practice in the social service sector.
As well as explaining the results of the monitoring survey, the report also included an analysis of the regulatory framework that covers social services, together with information on similar work carried out abroad.
Results of the monitoring exercise – problem areas
According to the Ministry of Economic Development, more than 31.3 billion roubles were allocated to NGOs for providing social services in 2018 (that’s 30% more than in 2017), with funds distributed to 4,400 SONGOs. In addition, more than 22 million people took advantage of these services (3.6 times more than in the previous year).
The Public Chamber survey revealed that low tariffs on social service payments (which make it difficult for NGOs to show a profit) and the inter-agency nature of the services provided have remained problem areas for certain sectors. The effect of the latter has been that where services overlap the remit of different agencies, it is not always obvious which one is responsible for providing them.
New problems have also arisen. NGOs, which receive reimbursement from State funds for services provided, are experiencing payment delays. According to Elena Topoleva, some organisations have been waiting for nearly a year as these amounts were not foreseen during the State budget planning process.
Some sectors are experiencing their own problems. For example, in the social protection sector, people who took part in the monitoring exercise in some regions noted that excessive requirements were being placed on those wishing to be included on the register of social service providers. In addition, there is currently no special federal legislation that incorporates the concept of social services in relation to youth policy. This means that such services cannot be provided lawfully.
In order to resolve these problems, there are now plans to develop a methodology for assessing the demand for services, as well as strengthening control over timely receipt of funds and enhancing the regulatory role of federal authorities.
Igor Gall-Savalsky, a member of the Public Chamber’s Commission for the Development of the Non-Profit Sector and Support to NGOs, has suggested that the Ministry of Finance should develop a single transparent framework for determining how State funds should be distributed in all social sectors. According to Igor, there are currently different demands for social service provision in all regions across Russia, including funding issues.
Elena Topoleva stated that regional authorities and the NGOs themselves fear a sharp decline in service quality. They also believe that services could subsequently be paid for by the recipient and municipal authorities forced to close given the active involvement of NGOs in providing social services.
Aleksey Lavrov, Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister, sees no risks to the quality of social service provision. Being able to request payment for services from State-funded institutions is a common problem which needs to be addressed in a different way. Questions about the quality of services will not be an issue if there are effective control mechanisms in place. The chief arbiter of service quality, i.e. the consumer, can report any problems to the relevant regulatory authority, said Lavrov. According to the expert, there is no chance of any funded institutions being replaced by NGOs as the level of the latter’s involvement in social service provision is minimal.
“Experience shows that State financial institutions start operating more effectively in areas of the Russian Federation where there are clear ground rules on the distribution of State funds”, said Lavrov.
“The main aim is to introduce competition”, said Ilya Torosov, Deputy Minister at Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development. Competition is emerging. NGOs are more involved in service provision and the quality is improving. As far as any risks are concerned, the more services and money are involved, the more likely it is that the former are going to be of low quality. But given the amounts that are available today, it’s too early to talk about this. We hope that these services will be provided with body and soul, a quality that is very much associated with SONGOs”, said Torosov.
You can access the report via the following link here.