UNDP’s Social Innovation Fund informed a Law on Social Welfare Services

UNDp in Vrelo village, South Serbia

UNDP efforts to promote social inclusion have historically sought to secure access to services and employment for vulnerable populations, notably Roma, IDPs, refugees and people with disabilities.   These needs remain stubbornly high, due to widening fiscal deficits that constrain public expenditure, and the global economic crisis that has discouraged job-creating domestic and foreign investment.  UNDP’s relevance promoting social and economic inclusion is unequivocal, and the prospective role is evidenced by the transformational programming that was recognized by the Government of Serbia in 2011.   

The Serbian Government adopted a new Law on Social Welfare Services in April 2011 which recognized the UNDP-inspired Social Innovations Fund (SIF) as a model and best practice.  SIF was the culmination of a multi-year effort launched with UNDP assistance in order to fast-track reforms in the area of social protection services.  SIF introduced a “mixed modality” in service provision, which for the first time included Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) as service providers.

SIF managed to:

  • Support 298 projects with the average value of EUR 23,716 (ranging between EUR 8,700 and EUR 45,000) and started community based care in over 100 municipalities in Serbia.
  • Provide technical support for several hundreds of applicants and grantees in the applications for grants as well as throughout the implementation of the projects.

Thanks to SIF, 298 innovative projects were implemented in over 100 communities across Serbia.  The spectrum of services included home health care for the elderly, independent living for people with disabilities, day care centers for children, and more.  Community services were significantly expanded in municipalities which previously had few or none due to shallow capacity and a dearth of funding. UNDP helped to pioneer innovative services, such as the establishment of shelters for street children, training programs for women in organic farming, job-search support for people with cognitive disabilities, and new treatment programs in juvenile detention centers.   

The new Law adopts and advances measures that SIF introduced, tested and advocated for, and thus has institutionalized the transformational change in social assistance and social service provision in Serbia. The Law on Social Welfare Services has embraced the targeted social services approach, the standardization of services, and the increased devolution of responsibility to for local level implementation.  The new Law also envisages enhanced and strengthened services monitoring, a feature tested through SIF and which engaged Community Support Organizations intimately in this process. Independent estimates suggest that the new legislation will increase eligibility of the poorest households for Financial Social Assistance (FSA) by 18.4%, while the average amount received could increase by about 10.6% per adult.  Total fiscal expenditures on FSA would increase by 34.6% (to around 0.05% of GDP), but as a result of the new Law, the number of poor is expected to decrease by approximately 2.2%.

The net impact assessment of SIF asserted “The innovation of the SIF has been in its design as a mechanism that directly encouraged the concept of plurality of service providers, thus pursuing the ultimate goal of the Social System Reform”