A person can be charged for social services provided to him or his family under the Social Welfare Act. The amount of the payment depends on the volume and cost of the service and on the economic situation of the person and his family. Service provider decides whether and how to charge. Considering that there are 226 local authorities, very diverse practices can be expected. The study analyses local governments’ charging practices for social services provided to those in need and/or their families.

„Not every Estonian local authority takes into account the financial status of the people or families that they are charging for social services. This can lead to several negative consequences for the families that are financially disadvantaged.“ – Kadi Timpmann

The study revealed that on their own estimations, 154 municipalities, or 68% of all municipalities charge for social services provided in their authorities. And on their own estimations, 72 municipalities, or 32% of all do not charge for services.

Other findings:

  • If the local government does not charge for services then it does not mean that the services are free for the people in need. Governments can offer services through their paid employees, managed divisions or established foundations.
  • In more than 80% of the cases, the charging is regulated by local government legislation.
  • Problem solving usually takes place case basis – each case is reviewed individually and the perfect solutions with optimal costs are attempted to address.
  • Charging for services is generally based on person’s real need for aid and the ability to pay.
  • The problems are the lack of awareness of provided social services and the passivity of seeking help.
  • If the service fee is charged then usually both the person in need and his family member are asked but the direct consumer is addressed primarily.

At the end of the study, it was noted that:

  • In order to get a whole picture the services should be examined from the perspective of the client or in other words, it should be analysed which services and on what price are available in various local authorities and how big are the differences between municipalities.
  • It would be important to examine the management of service provision and the assessment of the need for aid in every municipality. This would allow to find out what schemes are used by governments while offering services, how the need for aid is assessed and whether there is any unequal treatment of those in need.
  • It is also important to set up a reliable and consistent database on the volume and cost of the social services provided in municipalities.