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Impoverished families Unable to Qualify for State Poverty Reduction Allowance

26.11.2008
Gela Mtivlishvili, Gurjaani

The package of social allowances will be increased to 169 million GEL for the 2009 draft budget. Georgian government submitted the draft to the Georgian Parliament for discussion. Official information indicates that the number of impoverished people in Georgia will reach 900 thousand people this year. 400 thousand of them will receive family allowance (30 GEL) and 24 GEL for each member of the family, an increase from the current 12 GEL. 200 thousand beneficiaries will receive 20+16 GEL and 300 thousand will receive 10+8 GEL. Moreover, 900 thousand people living below the poverty level will be insured. Despite this information, the Agency of Social Subsidies is discontinuing allowances from impoverished families.

Ekaterine Berozashvili lives in the village of Kardenakhi in Gurjaani district with her 18-year-old son. They live in a one-room house registered under the name of Ekaterine Berozashvili’s mother-in-law. Standing on the room’s concrete floor is only one steel framed bed, so Ekaterine has to sleep in the chairs. They are both willing and ready to work, and this includes manual labor, but they have not been able to find even such demeaning types of employment. The Berozashvilis own no land, estate or other assets; the only thing in their possession is an old black-and-white TV set. Neighbors give them whatever food they are able to spare, as the small family also has no livestock.

The Berozashvilis received allowance because they were considered eligible under the Poverty Reduction State Program. However, the Agency of Social Subsidies discontinued the family’s social allowance after carrying out a repeated examination of their situation. The head of the family claims that the social agent incorrectly evaluated the social-economic conditions of their family. Consequently, she is now requesting for a repeat evaluation in order to receive the much needed allowance.

TV Company “Imedi” also broadcasted a story on TV about the poor living conditions of the Berozashvilis but unfortunately, neither the Agency of the Social Subsidies nor the Ministry of Healthcare, Labor and Social Welfare have taken interest in the matter. In spite of their continued plight, there hasn’t been a reevaluation of the family’s conditions.

After conversing with head-of-family Lia Khuroshvili, a lawyer working for the Human Rights Center assessed that information on the agency’s evaluation as being impartial. “More precisely, Ekaterine Berozashvili claims that over a course of three months before the evaluation was made, the woman and her son were not generating any income. We explained to her that an authorized representative of the family needs to sign each paper of the evaluation in order to confirm his/her agreement on the context in the document. Berozashvili did not deny the fact however, she mentioned that she signed the papers without reading the text,” said the lawyer.

The agency also dropped allowances for Leila Khvtisiashvili, another resident of Kardenakhi. After the agent examined the family for the second time, the rating points for the family increased from 45,530 up to 57,630, thus not qualifying her for social allowance.

There are four members in the Khvtisiashvilis family. 78-year-old Makvala Khvtisiashvili is bed-bound due to illness and requires constant attention. 26-year-old Gia and 15-year-old Gela Khvtisiashvilis are also in need of medical treatment. Leila Khvtisiashvili said that the family does not have enough income to buy the necessary medicine. Neighbors assist them by providing bread and other basic food products. The living conditions of the Khvtisiashvilis can be considered as extremely poor and match criteria outlined by the poverty reduction program.

Like other socially excluded families, the Berozashvilis and the Khvtisiashvilis also applied to the Agency of the Social Subsidies with the request to examine their living conditions a second time. However, officials from the agency explained to them that a repeated examination can only be conducted one year after a rating point is issued to a family.

Why does the system of the social welfare allow the population to enjoy the state grants effectively? How does the agency of social subsidies react when a family, which seeks and needs the available social allowance, and living in poor conditions, is granted with high rating points? Why does the agency not react to extraordinary cases? We asked these questions to the public relations service department of the Agency for Social Subsidies.

“The Agency of Social Subsidies works on the issue and they will soon submit the draft amendments to the resolution to the ministry that will assist us in the management of similar cases. Similar mistakes have been the result of in faults in the current methodology; it is very common during surveying and assessment of a certain social layer and it is called statistical variance. Social agencies are fully aware that similar episodes are not statistic. We do our best to prevent families from seeking allowance and from falling victims to this variance.

Regarding these two concrete families we can say that the two social-economic evaluations are filled in on these families.

According to the evaluation filled in April 2006, all members of Ekaterine Berozashvili’s family were unemployed. As for the evaluation of 2008, it states that both members of the family are occupied in agricultural activities and are able to generate income. Consequently, the family has a certain level of income and expenses as well. All these became the basis for increasing the rating points.

Leila Khvtisiashvili’s family rating points were increased because she, as a retired person, receives a considerably increased pension. When her evaluation was issued on April 7, 2006 her pension was 33 GEL and in the evaluation conducted in 2008, she receives 77 GEL (not adjusted to inflation or rising prices). Another member of the family receives 55 GEL as an allowance. This information had a big impact on the rating points; however, nobody thinks that the conditions of the Khvtisiashvili family have improved. Their recent points 57,630 demonstrate that the living conditions of the family are poor and their rating is just barely above the threshold of limited points. However, it is clear that whenever there is an estimated limit, there will always be a group of people who are very close to that limit but will still require an allowance.

The agency permanently carries out various activities in order to make the assessment procedure of a family’s social-economic situation more transparent. We try to reduce and eradicate illegally fixed allowances, and declarations that are filled in tendentiously. The principle of transparency of the information on a beneficiary family has the same aim and it became possible since the summer of 2008 after amendments were introduced to the normative acts. Each beneficiary confirms in new forms of the evaluation that she/he is ready to make their family’s evaluation public after the state grants the family with allowance. It will take a while to obtain confirmations from all beneficiaries and only after that we will have the right to publish corresponding lists. We work on establishing better connections with local authorities and society,” said the officials from the public relations department of the Agency for Social Subsidies.

Kakheti regional administration also has information about the extremely unbearable living conditions of the impoverished families. As Giorgi Sibashvili, deputy regional governor, stated that many impoverished people could not qualify in the state poverty reduction program because of the current methodology in the system. Consequently, these families have remained without social assistance, which aggravates their situation even further.

“Based on the current methodology, socially excluded families are granted with high rating points that create serious problems for us with respect to society.  The methodology and the formula based on which the points are calculated should be immediately amended,” stated Giorgi Sibashvili. 

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