The data used by civil society representatives indicate that the dynamics of the development of social services over the last 8 years has been positive, despite the fact that the current system of social services still does not fully respond to the realities in the country and that the network of existing services is not well known either by potential beneficiaries or by public authorities. This means that positive models, including those funded from the public budget, are not being multiplied and remain unknown, say managers of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

How can partnerships between authorities and civil society organisations be strengthened? This was the question participants tried to answer at the „Partnerships for the development of social services” debate, organised by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Moldova and Public Association „Institutum Virtutes Civilis”, as part of the Europe Day campaign, which takes place from 9 to 31 May.

The Director of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Moldova, Ana Mihailov, pointed out that in recent years, efforts have been made to develop a society that offers well-being to its citizens, where everyone enjoys respect, opportunities and equal chances.

„We intend to discuss how we can build partnerships for social services, starting from the premise that the state is not able, on its own, especially against the background of the multiple crises and challenges we are currently facing, to provide quality social services, on a continuous basis, and to extend them to all those who need them”,

Ana Mihailov pointed out.

The European Union is among the most reliable partners of the Moldovan authorities, which has consistently provided support for the development of social services. Project Manager at the European Union Delegation to Moldova, Victoria Neaga, noted that the new context in the region, influenced by the war in Ukraine and the large number of refugees, proves that partnerships for the social services development are vital.

„The social services development area is a priority for the European Union Delegation. In 2018 we supported a very large first project with a total budget of two million euros, which resulted in 42 social services at local level throughout Moldova. We are talking here about day centres for children, centres for the elderly, mobile teams providing social services at home for people who cannot move, or providing psychological assistance to victims of domestic violence. In 2020, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the field of social services has become even more important. The energy crisis and the war in Ukraine have unfortunately complicated the situation, i.e. EU funding in this area has only started to increase in order to respond promptly and effectively to the needs of vulnerable people”,

reassured Victoria Neaga, Project Manager at the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Moldova.

Attending the debate, Minister of Labour and Social Protection, Marcel Spatari, said the authorities have started work on a social services database.

„Unfortunately, we realised that we do not have an information system for social services offered in the country. So our social canteens, for example, don’t have an information system to manage their beneficiaries, to plan, etc. In order to have a vision and to be able to coordinate things better, we need a well-developed information system. We also have a problem with the financing of social services. Today there are a lot of projects with international donors who are ready to help us, but they provide support for a limited period of time, after which we, the authorities, have to take them over and fund them. If we don’t know about the existence of these services, we have no way of planning budgets to support them and so we end up with closed nursing homes because they are no longer funded. On the other hand, local authorities don’t provide them with funding because they simply don’t have resources budgeted for them”,

commented Minister Marcel Spatari.

Over the years, Moldova’s development partners have provided support for the development of social services, but there is a pressing need for a strategic country vision for social services. The view was expressed by Mariana Ianachevici, Director of the Association for Child and Family Empowerment „AVE COPIII”, who gave more details about the challenges to sustainable partnerships between authorities and CSOs

„I’m sorry to say this, but there are still villages or towns where the local public authority cannot clearly explain how many people need a social canteen: five or 50, how many children need to go to a day centre: ten or all the children in the community? (…) Unfortunately, over the years we have not taught people what active citizenship means, we have not taught them what participation and involvement in the act of government means. We say: yes, we want to develop services, but have we asked the citizens, how do they see their development, what are their expectations? The citizen must be informed about what the local public authority can offer”,

said Mariana Ianachevici.

At the end of the debate „Partnerships for the development of social services”, the president of the Public Association „Institutum Virtutes Civilis”, Liliana Palihovici, concluded that social service organisations need support especially in low-income districts.

„The resources that local public authorities have today to support CSOs are far too small to meet the needs of beneficiaries. In order to avoid a situation where people in underdeveloped regions are at risk of not being able to benefit from social services, there are more and more voices arguing that perhaps a National Fund for co-financing social services should be developed. This is a view to which central authorities should listen. Why? Because together we want the same thing: to raise the standard of living for citizens and to develop society for the better”,

said the President of the Public Association „Institutum Virtutes Civilis”.

The debate was organised in the framework of the project „Partnerships 4 Women Leadership and Good Governance”, implemented by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Moldova and the Public Association „Institutum Virtutes Civilis”, with the financial support of the European Union and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.