Why is non-take-up a key issue for the City of Ghent?
Ghent is a large city with a lot of deprivation, many different target groups and many different nationalities. For many citizens, the way to the OCMW is not self-evident. Some people remain under the radar. Rights analysis and granting rights for people in poverty is a core task of the OCMW. We are committed to lowering the thresholds to the OCMW. Non-take-up is not a matter for the OCMW alone; other partners can also play a role in this
Why do people not take up benefits?
There are several causes:
- From the target group itself there is, for example, lack of knowledge and skills, and there are social-psychological barriers.
- From the implementer’s perspective, procedures are sometimes long and daunting, or there is poor communication.
- From a policy perspective, the regulations are very complex and the resources (time and money) are not always available.
How did OCMW deal with non-take-up before Ghent Knapt Op?
Ghent has been working with non-take-up for a long time. In 2017 there was the first pilot project around proactive rights approaches.
Ghent works on different levels: on the micro level, we work around the individual client situations. In 2017, the OCMW started a pilot project in Gent-Zuid in which 26 rights were examined in known beneficiary households.
At the meso level, we focus on training, information, collaboration with partners, workload, reduction, data linking and providing tools.
Examples of meso-level work include:
- SPOC Phone (a direct telephone exclusively for welfare organisations who immediately get a social worker on the line for advice)
- Children First (In many schools in Ghent parents can meet social workers of the OCMW who can help them with financial or other problems. If the family has a limited living allowance, for example, it maybe untitled to an intervention in hot meals for the children)
- Information to clients via social rights information brochures
- Cooperation and information exchange with other departments
In 2021, the aim is to expand our reception services and invest more in making the OCMW CPAS better known in the neighborhood. We want the threshold for referral to our reception to become lower. We are focused on information outreach and the development of networks.
At the macro level, the OCMW is an important partner to work with at the national level to move towards simplification and automation of rights fulfilment – ensuring that people are able to fully access their rights.
“Through my participation in the project Gent knapt op, I became acquainted with OCMW.
I was surprised by the extent of the services and support OCMW offers.”
“I had no idea that people like me could also receive support from OCMW. The - mainly – financial aid makes life just a little easier for me. I didn't have to use my modest savings when I unexpectedly had to buy a new refrigerator. I could make use of the grant for energy-efficient solutions for the purchase. They are now looking into the possibilities to provide financial support for the purchase of glasses. I also submit the invoice for my internet connection every month and receive a compensation via the PASOA grant. Thanks to this support, I was recently able to buy a bunch of tulips at the checkout of the supermarket. And I can afford to go out for a coffee or a movie once in a while.” Project Participant
How does Ghent Knapt Op help with non-take-up?
In Ghent Knapt Op (GKO), we go to the people ourselves and make our offer known. So we don’t just work as driven by demand. We do this in a very broad sense because our two social workers also have the space and sufficient working time for this. We find that GKO can be an entry point for people who otherwise would never have found their way to the OCMW.
In Ghent Knapt Op, there is close cooperation with partners so that our knowledge and expertise are also shared to some extent. For example, we focus on publicizing and helping to fulfil rights. One of the consequences of this is that partners are now quicker to refer other people to us outside the GKO.
What are the changes you would like to enact in OCMW to reduce the rate of non-take-up?
- We want to build on the path we have now embarked on. However, this is a process of years.
- We want to make even greater use of collaborative relationships, formal and informal, at the district level so that we can jointly combat under-protection (lack of rights fulfilment).
- We want to create a stepping stone or a bridge to the professional reception and proactive rights approach. Which partner can take which role in this, and how can they be supported?
- We commit to additional Social Workers and want to provide tools to enable even faster deployment of proactive rights approaches.
- We want to be a more familiar face in the community so that partners and citizens approach us easily. SPOC (single point of contact).