The Social Welfare Services of the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance are responsible for the provision and promotion of social welfare services. The policy of the Social Welfare Services forms an integral part of the general governmental policy for social and economic development and aims at advancing social welfare, meeting social needs and preventing social problems among individuals, families and communities.
The Social Welfare Services are already in line with the guidelines of the European Union. In order to ensure continual alignment with new developments in the European Union in this area, Social Welfare Services systematically evaluate legislation and policies and modify them accordingly. Although there is no binding European legislation on social protection and social inclusion there are policies on the issues concerned. The Social Welfare Services have already participated in the open method of coordination launched in the European Strategy for Social Inclusion.
A Task Force (consisted of governmental services, NGOs, academic institutions etc) was initiated by the Social Welfare Services for the preparation of a political document, the Joint Inclusion Memorandum (JIM), which determined the political priorities of the Republic of Cyprus on social inclusion. The JIM was signed, in Brussels, by the Minister of Labor and Social Insurance and the European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, on 18.12.2003. The Social Welfare Services also participate in the Community Action Programme for the Encouragement of Co-operation between Member States to Combat Social Exclusion.
(a) Family Counseling and Supportive Services The main objective of these Services is to support individuals and families, so that they can respond, in the best possible way, to their role of providing healthier conditions for the development of their members, always aiming at the welfare of society in general.
(b) Prevention/Handling of Violence in the Family Social Welfare Services provide help to families facing problems of violence within the family.
(c) Maintenance Cases These cases involve divorced parents who, due to severe relationship problems, do not accept any other arrangements for the payment of maintenance (usually) by the father to the children. In these cases, Welfare Officers receive and forward the maintenance.
(a) Children in the care of the Director - The Social Welfare Services, as the official agency of the State for the implementation of legislation concerning children undertake the care and protection of children who, for certain reasons, must be removed from their families. These children are taken into the care of the Director of Social Welfare Services and placed in foster families on payment or in child protection institutions. At the same time, practical assistance and social work services are provided to the child's family with the aim of improving conditions and facilitating the earliest possible return of the child to its own home.
(b) Day-Care of Children - With the goal of further supporting and empowering the family, Social Welfare Services implement a child day care programme either in foster families on payment, or in institutions.
(c) Custody Cases - In accordance with the Parents and Children's Relationship Law, the Social Welfare Services supervise cases which are before the Family Court after an application of either parent. In compliance with the Court's instructions, officers of the Social Welfare Services prepare socio-economic reports, in order to inform the Court, with the aim of safeguarding and protecting the children's best interests. They also supervise and facilitate communication between the children and the parent who does not live with them.
(d) Day Care Centers, Child - Minders, Day Centers for School-aged Children
The Social Welfare Services operate the Child Day Care Programme. Within the scope of this Programme, Social Welfare Services:
- provide day care services in governmental Day Care Centers,
- register and inspect private and community Day Care Centers and Child - Minders
- register and inspect Day Centers for school-aged children.
(e) Institutional Services for Children and Young people - In 2003, the Social Welfare Services were operating 8 child protection institutions. On 31.12.2003 the number of children living in these institutions was 129. Adoptions
In accordance with the Adoption Law, Officers of the Social Welfare Services have the following responsibilities:
- to prepare a documented report concerning the eligibility of persons wishing to adopt, who have not yet found a child to adopt, but also persons who wish to adopt a specific child,
- to safeguard the interests of the child to be adopted in their capacity of guardians ad litem appointed by the Court and to prepare the relevant report for the Court.
In addition the Social Welfare Services continue to function as the Competent Authority, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoptions.
(a) Submission of Socio Economic Reports - The Social Welfare Services prepare and submit Socio-Economic Reports for minors or adult persons showing criminal behavior. In 2003, 1.575 cases were referred by the Court, for the preparation of reports, out of which 59 cases concerned minors and 1.516 concerned adults. Twenty-five reports were prepared for cases concerning minors and 1.235 reports for cases concerning adults.
(b) Decriminalization Process - The Decriminalization Process of juvenile offenders, which derives from a 1978 practice between Social Welfare Services, the Police and the Attorney General, contributes to the identification and supervision of children in need of care and protection and the avoidance of court procedures.
(c) Probation of Minors and Adults and Supervision Orders - Social Welfare Services provide services to probationers. During 2003, 24 probation orders were issued for minors and 92 for adults. At the end of 2003, 120 persons were under the supervision of the Social Welfare Services.
Community Work - A basic objective of Social Welfare Services is the mobilization and organization of communities and citizens with the aim of identifying and meeting social needs, as well as co-coordinating social welfare programmes.
(a) Organization of Communities and Citizens - During 2003, 109 Community Welfare Councils/Committees and 129 Social Welfare Voluntary Organizations were in operation with the aim of running programmes and services to meet social needs at all levels. Six District Welfare Councils operated at the district level, whilst the Pan Cyprian Welfare Council, which is the highest co-coordinating body of voluntary initiative, continued to function at the pan Cyprian level.
(b) Technical Assistance - Technical assistance is systematically provided by Social Welfare Services, covering around 238 Community Welfare Councils/Committees and Social Welfare Voluntary Organizations, which operate a total of 342 community programmes benefiting more than 17.000 persons.
(c) Grants to Voluntary Organizations - A sum of approximately CYP 4.000.000 is provided every year to voluntary organizations within the framework of the grants-in-aid scheme, whose purpose is to encourage and support voluntary initiatives for the provision of services in the area of social welfare.
Public Assistance - The Public Assistance and Services for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities ensure a socially accepted standard of living for persons and families who run the risk of social exclusion. Public assistance may be provided in the form of money and/or social services, such as day-care, home-care and residential care, for persons in need.
(a) Allowances - Public assistance legislation safeguards the right of persons legally residing in the Republic to a minimum standard of living by providing financial assistance and social services. No discrimination is made on the basis of race, gender, religion, nationality, etc. A means test is conducted for applicants of public assistance, in order to determine their financial condition and the amount of financial assistance they may be entitled to. Rates for basic needs are reviewed annually to comply with the rising of the cost of living. As of 1.7.2003, the monthly amounts of public assistance benefits for covering the basic needs are CYP 182,00 for the claimant, CYP 91,00 for each dependant adult or child of 14 years of age or above and CYP 54,60 for each dependant child under the age of 14 years.
(b) Social Benefit Scheme for the Improvement of Housing Conditions - The goal of the Social Benefit Scheme for the improvement of Housing Conditions is to provide financial assistance to families with financial problems, in order to improve their housing conditions. In 2003, 55 cases were assisted with a sum total of CYP 300.000.
(c) Care of elderly and disabled persons - In order to meet this need, Social Welfare Services provide both institutional and home care services. Institutional care is provided to people needing continuous, specialized care, which they cannot receive in any other way or through other services and programmes. In parallel, foster carers are registered in accordance with relevant legislation and may care for up to 5 persons in their own homes. A primary objective of Social Welfare Services is the promotion of independent social functioning of elderly and disabled persons for as long as possible in their home environment and, to this end, family and community support services as well as home care services are provided. During 2003, 5.046 persons received home care services from government-employed, private or community carers. In parallel, within the framework of the philosophy outlined above, day care services are provided in Homes for Elderly and Disabled Persons or through community programmes.
(d) Financial Subsidy Scheme for the Self-employment of Elderly Persons - This Scheme aims at keeping elderly people healthy and active by providing incentives for their reactivation and participation in society. In this way, inactivity, boredom, depression and anxiety are reduced and their general psychological situation is improved. (e) Holiday Subsidy Scheme for Elderly and Disabled Persons - This Scheme subsidizes elderly persons over the age of 63 years and disabled persons, who are recipients of public assistance, with a grant of CYP 150 for a 6-day holiday anywhere in Cyprus at any time during the year.
Source: Press And Information Office, Republic Of Cyprus, 2005