How the coronavirus is changing social services: putting into practice the principle of leaving no one behind
Vulnerable people always need special attention, for example, the disabled, the homeless, orphans, the unemployed, prisoners and many others. In short, all those who objectively need support at any time.
During the crisis, they need even more support. The UN refers to protecting these groups in the Sustainable Development Goals, and the supreme audit institutions, according to the Moscow Declaration, help monitor their achievement and look for new ways to deal with inclusion. We tell you what actions have been taken in different countries to leave no one behind during the coronavirus pandemic.
1. The homeless
How to follow lockdown restrictions with no roof over your head? With compromised immune system, poor nutrition, limited access to hygiene products, and long stays in crowded shelters, homeless people are more likely to be at risk of infectious diseases. However, many countries have found ways to support them.
On March 18, 2020, California Governor has allocated $150 million to prevent the COVID-19 outbreak among homeless people. $100 million will be spent to support local governments, with $50 million spent to purchase 1,300 trailers and rent hotel rooms as temporary housing.
In Italy, public organisations and cafeterias have been closed, but local governments are providing food and setting up food trucks. The Italian Federation of Organizations working with Homeless People (fio. PSD) has distributed a brochure throughout the country's municipalities with information on how government agencies could set up temporary housing and protect the homeless.
2. Older people
According to WHO, 95% of coronavirus victims in Europe are people aged over 60. This makes us think the elderly need special medical and psychological care.
In Uruguay, the Ministry of Social Development is implementing a programme to involve volunteers in various events within the national plan to combat the coronavirus. During the lockdown, volunteers provide remote support to senior citizens, communicating with them using tablets given to retirees.
In France, after several weeks of ban on visits to care homes for elderly people, families were allowed to visit their relatives with the necessary precautions taken.
3. The disabled
More than 100 organisations for people with disabilities have encouraged governments and heads of state to provide assistance to the disabled. There are already many changes in this area.
The Australian government has announced that disabled people receiving sickness or unemployment benefits can also get a temporary two-week allowance of AUD 550 ($349) from April 27, 2020.
The Cyprus Government is taking special measures to inform people with disabilities about the COVID-19 outbreak and how to contain it. Braille leaflets are distributed for people with visual impairments, sign language newsletters are provided to people with hearing impairments online, and illustrated newsletters are prepared for people with cognitive disabilities.
4. Children and orphans
It is important to create both a comfortable environment to follow isolation rules and also to provide emotional support to children. A special focus should be placed on those who have to live in orphanages.
The U.S. GAO has published an article “School Meals during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” reviewing the “Summer Meals” programme, which provides food for children and teenagers under 18 from low-income families during summer holidays. In 2018, 149 million meals were provided. Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, it is essential to calculate the correct number of students receiving meals under the programme. To meet this and other requirements, in its report of 2018 the GAO gave 4 recommendations.
Not a single child stays at Children's Assistance Centre No. 8 in Olonets, a town in Karelia, where orphans and children deprived of parental care usually live. Every child has been taken home in order to protect them from the outbreak and make these long days of the lockdown more joyful for them, full of care and support. This practice is being implemented throughout the country.
5. Victims of domestic violence
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many women and children are trapped in their homes with abusers, people who use violent psychological, physical or economic pressure to achieve their goals. Restrictions do not allow victims to leave their homes in search of help, but there is still a way out.
In France, since the announcement of the national lockdown, the number of reports of domestic violence has increased by 30%. A system has been introduced when victims can report on domestic violence at pharmacies even in the presence of an abuser. Media reports say the French government has booked 20,000 hotel beds for victims of domestic violence.
In Uruguay, a special Council has been established to prevent the growth of cases of domestic violence against women and children, and the necessary additions have been made to the work of medical services and the police. A special focus is on people previously convicted of abuse: the state has allocated $4 million for electronic bracelets. In addition, the government has provided extra opportunities for the temporary housing of women with children who have to leave their homes.
6. Migrants and refugees
In many cases, these groups do not have enough rights in places of residence. To solve this problem, according to experts, countries should include migrants in temporary housing programmes, improve their conditions, and access to health services.
The Government of Canada has allocated CAD 50 million ($36 million) to support farmers and food employers whose foreign workers need to self-isolate for 14 days.
As part of the EU initiative, the process of rehousing 1,600 unaccompanied refugee children has begun. On April 15, 12 asylum-seeking children were rehoused from crowded refugee reception centres on Greek islands to Luxembourg.
7. HIV-positive people
HIV-positive people should be especially careful these days. It is important to ensure that they get support and necessary medicines in safe and comfortable conditions.
Vinay Saldanha, special adviser to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), noted that HIV-positive people should be especially careful these days until the coronavirus outbreak ends. For this purpose, he and his colleagues recommend that partners—both government and non-government—should supply clients with essential medicines for a long period of time.
8. The poor
The UN expects a significant increase in poverty rate among the working population, due to decline in economic activity.
In Honduras, where the government provides food to the poor, food production, agricultural development, and food independence and security have been declared state priorities.
9. The unemployed
Goldman Sachs Investment Bank predicts unemployment growth of up to 15%; according to different estimates, it can reach 20%. Measures taken by the state and companies to support people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic can help cope with this difficult time.
The ILO and UNICEF have prepared recommendations for enterprises to support the families of workers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and have appealed to governments around the world to support employers and strengthen social protection, especially for the vulnerable.
The Irish authorities pay up to EUR 350 per week under the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme. This Scheme can also be used by self-employed citizens. The state has taken legislative measures to prevent termination of rental agreements or rent prices from rising during the pandemic. Mortgage payments have been deferred for up to 3 months. A ban has been introduced preventing households from being cut off from gas and electricity in case of non-payment of utility bills.
According to the estimates of Alexei Kudrin, Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation, unemployment may also grow in Russia. ‘The state has already taken a very serious first step. It has raised unemployment benefits to the level of the minimum wage,’ emphasised Alexei Kudrin in an interview with Russia 1.
According to the UN, many detention facilities are overcrowded and do not have proper sanitary conditions. Also, prisoners often do not have access to adequate medical care.
After the audit, Colombian Comptroller General Carlos Córdoba suggested that prisoners should be resettled in unused facilities and hotels of the Special Assets Department of the Ministry of Finance. This, he believes, will prevent overcrowding in prisons and reduce risks of the COVID-19 outbreak there.
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