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Government moves to ease claims jungle

Welfare claimants sometimes find themselves passed from department to department Keystone

The government is taking steps to clear the administrative jungle created by the 500,000 claims for social security benefits in Switzerland.

This content was published on January 29, 2004 - 15:23

It has issued a new handbook to officials to try to improve coordination between the various departments and agencies which handle welfare requests.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) is distributing the book among 700 cantonal offices.

Aimed at those seeking invalidity and unemployment benefit, it is designed to prevent people being sent round the houses when they are seeking help and information.

“Many claimants have employment, social and health problems,” said Hans-Peter Burkhard, president of the association of unemployment offices.

“In many cases, it’s not clear whether these people are out of a job because they are ill or they’re ill because they don’t have a job. Therefore it’s often not clear which department should be dealing with the claim.”

Out of work

The move comes against a backdrop of rising unemployment and more and more people claiming welfare benefit.

Last month there were 162,000 people registered out of work, while the number of people claiming welfare benefit grew by ten per cent.

Closer cooperation is envisaged between the regional vocational training offices and the departments which deal with invalidity claims.

The early warning procedure for cases that are likely to become severe is also being improved.

“It is just a small, first step,” Walter Schmid, who heads Switzerland’s alliance of welfare groups, told swissinfo. “In all institutions there’s a growing awareness of the importance of cooperation.”

Incentives

He said there had to be financial incentives for different institutions to work together and that it couldn’t just be a question of one department saving money by sending claimants elsewhere.

“Cooperation needs more than a handbook and good intentions if at the end of the day, it turns out that the office which performs best has simply passed the buck and the cost to their colleagues.”

“Lifelong dependency on welfare benefits is not the aim either,” added Ruth Lüthi, president of the association of cantonal social services directors. “Those affected must be reintegrated into the workplace as soon as possible.”

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Half a million people claim welfare benefits in Switzerland.
Claiming benefits is an administrative jungle.
The government is trying to ease coordination among departments and has issued a new handbook to officials.
Seco is responsible for all matters relating to Swiss economic policy.
Within Switzerland, it serves as an interface between business, social partners and policy, and is charged with ensuring the protection of employees.

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