In support of housing, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs allocated nearly CZK 60 billion in five years. However, the problem of social exclusion has worsened.
Press release to Audit No. 17/02 – 19. 3. 2018
The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) focused on the support of the housing of low-income or otherwise vulnerable groups of population in the years from 2012 to 2017. The auditors have examined several instruments of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA), the Labour Office, and the Office of the Government to support housing - specifically social work, social services, housing benefits and supplementary payments and the support of localities in addressing social exclusion. In the course of the audit, the SAO was mainly assessing how these instruments had been set up and whether and how they had contributed to the fulfilment of social inclusion policy objectives and to addressing the causes of social exclusion and threats of social exclusion. The audit has revealed shortcomings both in the housing support system and in setting of individual instruments. On top of that, the MoLSA did not evaluate the impact of these instruments.
The current housing support encompasses a number of individual instruments that are under the authority of a range of state and local government bodies. The assistance from these individual bodies to the beneficiary was in many cases isolated and without any interdependence.
The situation with audited instruments was a similar case. The audit has showed that even the instruments which lie within the authority of one resort - in this case of MoLSA, are not always interconnected. These are, for instance, the housing and social work benefits where social workers keep no track of who receives a housing benefit at a given locality and cannot assess whether their assistance would be appropriate in certain cases. The SAO has assessed that audited instruments can contribute to addressing the causes of social exclusion or threat of social exclusion if the social housing support system is changed and its action is maximally interrelated. Such a change was to be brought by the law on social housing. But it has not yet been passed.
The SAO has also found that, within the audited instruments for housing support, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs disbursed approximately CZK 60 billion between 2012 and 2016. The amount of allocated finances was growing - in 2012, the MoLSA distributed more than CZK 8 billion, in 2016 it was already nearly CZK 13.7 billion. Despite such a large volume of funds, the number of socially excluded localities has risen. In 2006, there were 310 localities in the Czech Republic with 80,000 citizens living there. In 2015, nevertheless, the number of socially excluded localities amounted to more than 600 with 115 thousand inhabitants.
Instruments, through which the MoLSA distributed most of the funds intended to support housing, were housing benefits and supplementary payments. Between 2012 and 2016, the resort allocated CZK 54.3 billion to both aids. The total amount of finances paid rose from CZK 7.4 billion in 2012 to CZK 12.2 billion in 2016, i.e. by 65 percent. These aids reduce the number of people at risk of poverty, however, they do not solve the cause of the problem. The audit implies that neither of those benefits motivates the beneficiary - a person without incomes receives more than a person with certain incomes, while the housing benefits and supplementary payments are paid by the state for an indefinite period. Last but not least, the audit has revealed that there are still possibilities to draw more funds within this aid than what a beneficiary should actually be entitled to.
Another instrument to help address the housing needs of citizens is social work. Responsibilities of social workers of the Labour Office and social workers of the municipal authorities are not clearly distinguished. The law neither says in what situations which worker has to work with a client nor it specifies the extent that this work should have. Since 2012, the MoLSA has been preparing a law on social workers. Even this law has not been passed yet.
To support social work in the years from 2015 to 2016, the MoLSA also distributed targeted subsidies in total of CZK 550 million to the regions and municipalities, mainly in order to increase the number of social workers The number of workers, however, did not increase. There were still about 1,500 of them, which does not represent not even a third from the optimal number. The MoLSA estimated the number of social workers at about 5,200.
To support social services, the MoLSA paid a total of CZK 4.3 billion between 2012 and 2016. The impact of these subsidies was not evaluated by the resort, although it disposed of necessary information.
The auditors also targeted the Agency for Social Inclusion. The agency is a government instrument that helps municipalities deal with the issue of social exclusion through consultancy and methodological support. Although the Agency has a role to play in social inclusion, including housing, it does not have any powers and competences. Cooperation with the Agency is voluntary, the interest of localities to cooperate with them has been declining since 2012.
Supreme Audit Office