Russia – trends in social state orders and social certificates
What are the pluses of the new law and what are the risks involved in its implementation? asks ASI’s correspondent. The Law on Social State Orders adopted in July 2020 should help to regulate social services, ensure that the distribution of support is better understood and more transparent, and stimulate competition between state-funded institutions and non-governmental suppliers. Now NGOs and not-for-profits will have two new types of state orders – a competition, in which experts select those who will implement the project, and ‘certificates’ – contracts – which will let those who receive the services choose who will deliver them.
A mental evolution
We have been talking about the need for social state orders for more than 20 years. The draft law was debated in the Duma for the first time in February 1997, but it didn’t get voted through. Now, according to Oleg Zykov, director of the Institute of Narcological Health of the Nation, a member of the Public Chamber (RF OP) for three convocations and a co-founder of the ASI, “a mental evolution” has taken place in society. “In the mid-90s, people who were involved in the development of civil society thought about how to support public organizations,” says ASI Zykov. “The technology of such support could be realized through incentives, tax preferences or grants. But all these methods were not entirely transparent. In order to effectively use funds and solve a problem that was not invented, but current, the best option would be a programme-targeted approach, when money is allocated for a specific goal.”
In obtaining budgetary funds, the idea itself, that it is all about, is often lost from sight, Zykov believes. Therefore, in the social sphere, you can’t get funds for “offices”, but you have to finance goals and programmes with the help of which these goals can be achieved:
“The mental evolution happens when any problem that is urgent for society must be realized through the involvement of those people who are affected by the problem. Social policy should be based on public initiative. Our emotions and motives are the key. And you will never do an effective job just for money if you don’t care about it with your heart and soul ”.
Free access to social services
“The adopted law is considered a logical continuation of the state’s policy in the social sphere, which now seeks to introduce digital technologies”, said Lin Nguyen, a lawyer at Perspektiva. In theory, technology should make it easier to obtain social services and provide an opportunity to choose a provider. “The uniqueness of the law lies in the fact that the recipient of social services can now choose from whom to order services. And the provider of social services can now be not only the state or NGOs, but individual entrepreneurs and even an individual, “explained Elena Sukhacheva, project coordinator of the ‘Attention and Care’ School of Patronage Care. That is, now a good teacher, nurse, physiotherapist, tour guide – micro-business owners who provide quality services – also have access to government subsidies.
“This is a great incentive to develop our services, bring them to the best quality, and have an additional source of funding. This is real support for micro and small businesses, as well as for the self-employed,” emphasizes Elena Sukhacheva.
For example, now the demand for nursing services greatly exceeds the supply, more and more elderly people require care, and it is participation in social ordering of nursing services, private and state boarding houses, individual entrepreneurs that can improve the situation – increase the volume of care services.
“And the opportunity to participate in the social order will give a good incentive to“ get out of the shadows ”- to show all the proceeds, to register employees in accordance with the law. And of course, to improve our services, communications, to try to get the consumer to choose you,” the expert says.
The law stipulates: “State services in the social sphere are provided to the consumer at the expense of budgetary funds if he has a social certificate.”
A social certificate is a document according to which a citizen has the right to receive social services in a certain volume and on certain conditions.However, according to the lawyer at “Perspektiva”, the law does not directly establish which social services will be implemented through the social certificate. The document speaks only of spheres of activity: education, health care, social protection, employment, physical culture, sports and tourism. The details will be determined later by the government or regional or municipal authorities.
“As established by law, the social certificate is generated in electronic form. But the possibility of obtaining a certificate in paper form is not excluded. It will include indicators: the volume of provision of state (municipal) services in the social sphere; the amount of financial support (reimbursement of costs) associated with the provision of the relevant state (municipal) services in the social sphere,” says Lin Nguyen.
Those eligible for certificates include low-income single citizens, families with children, war veterans, people with disabilities, and those with a monthly income below the subsistence level. How will the quality of services provided under social state orders be monitored? For example, in the field of physical rehabilitation, there are no standard assessment criteria.
“Any objective criteria for assessing effectiveness requires the involvement of additional specialists, for example, doctors, at different stages of the training. And this is a separate costly procedure,” – explains ASI Ekaterina Barteneva, PR manager of the Dream Ski program. Therefore, there is a fear that quality of services may be substituted by quantity … And we know examples when, in order to “keep within the budget,” the duration of procedures was significantly reduced, individual rehabilitation was transferred to group sessions, etc. “
“I am not a supporter of strict rationing, because this way we can lose our individual approach,” says Nikolay Slabzhanin, executive director (national director) of the Russian Committee for Children’s Villages – SOS, in an interview with ASI. “The point is that flexibility is what distinguishes the public sphere from the state sphere. If we want to provide a service that is more in line with the interests of a particular beneficiary, we need to add something in addition to this service, some variable part. “
According to Nikolai Slabzhanin, from this point of view, the social certificate limits freedom of action.
“For example, in home care there is a standardized list of actions, which includes, for example, cleaning the home, washing windows, something else … And if a person needs additionally to water the flowers, wash the dishes, for example? This will depend on who is directly providing care.”
Lack of money
Another danger is whether the amounts included in future certificates are real. If the cost of a service exceeds the amount of funding for it, the difference is made up by the recipient. First, poor people will look for a cheaper option, and secondly, the price can severely limit the level of quality of services.
“The price may turn out to be so low that an NGO or a social entrepreneur may simply not “ fit in” with the expenses,” says Elena Sukhacheva. “Here you need to carefully study the market, consider all the difficulties of obtaining a service under a certificate – whether, for example, a child with a disability will be able to go to rehabilitation 20-30 km from home or an elderly person with limited mobility can go to social groups using three modes of transport. All human needs must be studied very carefully. “
However, for the service provider, the certificate guarantees the receipt of a certain amount of funds. And if this service is divisible, the certificate can be given to several performers.
The law on social order will be in effect only in a few pilot regions at first. The list should be approved by the Government of the Russian Federation in the near future. The approval scheme is straightforward, but will a person who lives in one region and is registered in another be able to get the service?
“The certificates will be linked to the place of registration of a person. And what will happen to those who do not have local registration? For example, a person is in Moscow, but not in his city, and at the same time needs some help … It seems to me that we should proceed from the assumption that Russia is a single space within which a person can receive social support anywhere,” emphasizes Nikolay Slabzhanin.
The future of the social services market
As the head of the department for contractual relations and procurement of the Department of Legal Regulation of Budgetary Relations of the Ministry of Finance of Russia, Anastasia Gyurova, said during her speech at the Public Chamber, all amendments related to the new law on state orders are due to be submitted for broad discussion. For this, three main platforms have been identified: an interdepartmental working group under the Ministry of Finance of Russia, public hearings in the RF OP and the Public Council of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection. The authorities are ready to listen to complaints and suggestions.
In general, representatives of NGOs interviewed by ASI highly appreciate the new law on social orders. Sufficiently modern and technology-savvy organizations will be able to become competitive suppliers.
“But, if state policy in the social sphere is not aimed at improving the quality and volume of social services (or at least maintaining the existing level), first of all in the public sector itself, then over time the market will entice all the best from both the public sector and the non-profit sector … As a result, these services will become more expensive for the budget and at the same time their quality is unlikely to increase, or may even deteriorate,” believes Lin Nguyen, lawyer at the Perspektiva RPA.