System of Social Assistance in Poland
Social assistance in Poland is regulated by the Law of 12 March 2004 on Social Assistance (uniform text Journal of Laws 2009.175.1362.), and is organised by units of central and local administration in cooperation with organisations such as foundations, associations, the Catholic Church, other churches, religious groups, employers and both natural and legal persons. Units of social assistance are as follows:
in municipalities and communes – social assistance centres;
in poviats (districts) – poviat centres for family support;
in voivodships – regional social policy centres.
The governmental administration at central and regional level also play an important role in the social assistance system. Voivode (regional level) is, among others, responsible for assessment of conditions and efficiency of social assistance as well as supervising the quality of activities and observation of standards of services provided by social assistance organisational units in communes and districts. The minister responsible for the social security sector (i.e. The Minister of Labour and Social Policy) is in charge of creation of the concept and strategy of social assistance, developing of legal regulation in the field of social assistance, defining standards of services provided by social assistance organisational units as well as analysing the effectiveness of the measures taken.
The majority of social assistance services are provided by social assistance centres and powiat centres for family support. They are responsible for payment of cash benefits as well as non-financial assistance. Regional social policy centres focus on cooperation with providers and organisers of social assistance (for example NGOs). NGOs provide services such as: shelters for the homeless, homes for single mothers, day-care homes and other support centres, and many others.
Beneficiaries of Social Assistance
According to the provisions of the Act on Social Assistance, persons holding Polish citizenship, residing and staying within the territory of the Republic of Poland, and foreigners residing and staying on the territory of the Republic of Poland, holding a residence permit or refugee status, as well as citizens of the European Union and European Economic Area, who stay on the territory of Poland and who hold a stay permit are entitled to social assistance benefits.
Social assistance is granted to persons and families, in particular for the following reasons: poverty, orphanage, homelessness, need to protect motherhood, unemployment, disability, prolonged illness, incompetence in childcare matters likewise in running a household, particularly in case of incomplete and large families, alcoholism or drug addiction, difficulties in adjusting to life after discharge from penitentiary institution, natural or ecological disasters.
The main groups of social assistance beneficiaries are as follows:
the homeless (assistance in form of providing shelters, meals, clothes)
the unemployed (cash benefits, integration activities)
the disabled and the dependent people (care services, social assistance homes, cash benefits)
the poor (cash benefits)
the elderly (care services, social assistance homes, cash benefits)
families and children (cash benefits, supplying nutrition for children in schools)
victims of natural and ecological disasters (purpose benefit).
Social assistance should lead to the social integration and social inclusion of its beneficiaries, as well as their greater activity and independence.
Forms of assistance and support
Social assistance consists of various categories of cash benefits as well as different forms of non-financial support e.g. services in the form of social work, care services, specialist counselling - mainly legal and psychological, help in settling official matters or other key livelihood issues.
According to the Act of 12 March 2004 on Social Assistance, there are three basic types of cash benefits from social assistance system: permanent benefit, periodical benefit and purpose benefit (together with special purpose benefit).
As the rule, cash benefits can be granted to persons and families whose income per capita does not exceed criteria stipulated in the Act on Social Assistance. According to the provisions of art. 8 of the Act, the criterion of income of a person keeping a single household is now stated as PLN 477 and the criterion of income per person in the family - PLN 351.
Permanent benefit is an obligatory allowance, granted to persons incapable of working, due to her/his age or disability, provided that her/his income does not exceed the income criterion. This benefit constitutes a complement to their income, up to the amount of the legal income criterion. The amount of this benefit is stated as the difference between the income criterion and the personal income. The amount of this benefit cannot be lower than PLN 30 per month per person.
Temporary benefit may be granted to persons and families without sufficient income (income lower than legal income criterion), particularly due to prolonged illness, disability, unemployment, and possibility to maintain or acquire the rights to benefits on other social security systems.
The amount of a temporary benefit is stated as up to the difference between the income criterion and the personal income. However, according to the provisions of the Act on Social Assistance, the level of the single benefit cannot be lower than 50% of the difference between the income criterion and the person’s income. The amount of the temporary benefit cannot be lower than PLN 20 by month.
Assistance to persons covered by international protection.
The Act on Social Assistance also provides for integration assistance to persons covered by international protection. At present, it applies to the refugees and foreigners granted the subsidiary protection on the territory of Poland.
The assistance is provided within an individual integration programme, agreed between the poviat centre for family support and the foreigner, specifying the amount, the scope and the forms of assistance, depending on the individual life situation of the foreigner and his/her family. The assistance is provided during a period not exceeding 12 months, and its major components are:
benefits in cash for the maintenance and coverage of expenses connected with the learning of the Polish language,
the payment of contributions to the health insurance specified in the provisions on the general insurance with the National Health Fund;
specialised guidance .