The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) has launched the Warm Winter Campaign in an effort to help the underprivileged citizens of the city cope with the difficulties of winter, which has arrived all too early this year. To be held until March 2017, the campaign aims to bring together the public administrative support system and private-sector resources to provide efficient and comprehensive support for not only low-income households already on welfare support but also households of construction workers and other vulnerable groups who are prone to losing income in the winter. The goal is to identify specific groups of vulnerable welfare recipients and take proactive measures to protect them against possible critical situations.
Seoul citizens who are 65 years old or older can expect to welcome “new family members” who are concerned about and aim to support their wellbeing. These are social workers and visiting nurses dispatched from local community service centers (CSCs) who work hard to help senior citizens find the welfare services, recreational programs, and other social activities they need. Elderly citizens have been praising these dedicated civil servants and nurses, as they provide much-needed conversation, friendship, and care.
The PCSCP has also been favorably received among young women struggling with their first experiences of motherhood. Young, inexperienced mothers endure confusion and embarrassment on a daily basis, as they lack the knowledge to deal with a host of childcare-related problems. As part of the PCSCP, local CSCs have begun dispatching nurses to the homes of such mothers. These nurses observe children’s developmental progress and provide detailed advice on what mothers should know and do and what changes they should expect their children to undergo.
Seoul launched Korea’s first PCSCP in July 2016, with the ambitious objective of eradicating blind spots in welfare services at the neighborhood level. The CSCs, which used to handle only the requests and complaints made by local residents who visited the centers in person, are now transforming themselves into new leaders and hubs of proactive welfare services. The CSCs of 283 neighborhoods in 18 boroughs across Seoul are leading the current effort to transform the welfare and social security services for the city’s residents.
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The central goal of the PCSCP is to provide a wide variety of welfare services through the dispatch of welfare experts from local CSCs. In this way, civil servants reach out to citizens, without such citizens having to formally make any requests beforehand, to identify their welfare needs and provide services and benefits accordingly. Under this program, welfare is no longer provided to only underprivileged citizens. Rather, welfare planners and nurses working with local CSCs provide lifecycle-specific health and welfare services to all eligible local residents. To this end, Seoul Metropolitan City radically increased the number of civil servants specializing in social work by 1,151 in 2016 alone, in addition to hiring 204 nurses tasked with visiting and providing a combination of health and welfare services for citizens on behalf of local CSCs.
Moreover, the PCSCP has introduced a centralized system of welfare consulting and provision that involves: Our Neighborhood Officers, who are civil servants working at CSCs tasked with communicating with local residents proactively; welfare planners and visiting nurses, who support not only vulnerable families but also senior citizens aged 65 or older and new mothers; and welfare specialist consultants, who are capable of providing information on all types of welfare services available to citizens. The PCSCP also ensures integrated case management in each neighborhood, thereby encouraging local residents, CSCs, and other private-sector actors to work together to resolve local welfare issues.
With the aim of shifting the paradigm of government welfare services toward catering to not only the poor but all individuals according to their needs in different stages of life, Seoul City has introduced numerous new services through the PCSCP. First and foremost, nurses and welfare planners specializing in issues facing the elderly visit the homes of senior citizens aged 65 or older to check on their health and inform them of the health and welfare services for which they are eligible. The program has been met with increasing favor among welfare recipients.
The PCSCP also supports proactive and continuous communication with local residents as a means of identifying at-risk families, and helping such families overcome the difficulties they face. For example, a welfare planner, while visiting a senior client at his home, discovered that a tenant living in a house owned by the client was seven months behind on her rent. The tenant was a 66-year-old senior, who had been denied basic pension benefits because her resident registration had expired. In addition, her poor health prevented her from taking any paying jobs, making it impossible for her to pay her monthly rent on time. After becoming aware of her situation, the welfare planner first helped the tenant renew her resident registration. The local CSC then organized a neighborhood-wide fundraising campaign and turned to the SMG’s emergency financial assistance system to help cover her basic living expenses. The civil servants involved also helped her apply for basic and customized pension benefits and referred her to a local public healthcare center, which arranged for a nurse to visit and check on her regularly. Finally, the head of the CSC helped her find work in a kitchen at a local nursery. Having received such a comprehensive range of assistance, the elderly woman was able to find a stable job and begin paying her rent regularly.
Through the PCSCP, local CSCs and civil servants in Seoul have discovered 12,281 additional at-risk households (1,023 households per month or 153 households per neighborhood), and the city’s emergency financial assistance system has so far provided KRW 4.1 billion in emergency living and housing relief for 8,791 individuals. Moreover, on 14,437 occasions, Seoul has provided support for households in need of provisional living accommodations, need-specific welfare benefits and financial assistance, and referrals to hospitals and other specialized agencies.
The CSCs across Seoul stand at the forefront of the effort to provide proactive welfare services. Together, they have so far identified 1,334 cases in which citizens were in need of proactive welfare services, and have ensured that such cases are managed systematically. In addition to identifying and catering to citizens’ welfare needs, the CSCs have also been holding case meetings with local experts and private-sector agencies to find solutions to complex welfare problems.
Based on these achievements, The SMG intends to expand the reach of the PCSCP to all 25 boroughs of the city by 2017, so as to ensure prompt and effective delivery of welfare services for all those in need and establish a comprehensive and sustainable system of welfare services in partnership with local citizens and the private sector.