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Working paper

Outsourcing of Social Service Provisionto NGOs in the Russian Federation

UNRISD Working papers. n.a.. United Nations Research Intitute for Social Development, 2018
The paper focuses on a major social policy reform in the Russian Federation that was designed to begin outsourcing of some social service provision from state organizations to Socially-Oriented Non-Governmental Organizations (SONGOs). The key reform legislation, Federal Law 442 (FZ442) “On the Basis of social services for citizens of the Russian Federation,” came into effect in January, 2015. The paper discusses the main goals of the outsourcing reform to:  introduce into Russia’s social sector competition and choice of providers for service recipients by creating an alternative market outside state institutions;  link civil society and the state in ways that could improve communication, feedback and effectiveness of the state’s welfare expenditures;  increase personalization, responsiveness and effectiveness of social services  replace institutionalization of people with disabilities, children without parental supervision, and elderly with services delivered in communities, at home or in semi-institutional settings. In sum, these changes would bring Russian practices closer to international norms of deinstitutionalization, social inclusion, and mainstreaming. Our paper addresses three key questions about the implementation and effects of FZ442:  How well has FZ442 worked, that is, how broadly has state-SONGO contracting been implemented through Russia’s regions?  How successful have SONGOs been in improving responsiveness, effectiveness, diversification, and communication between clients and providers?  Does NGO-state contracting have the potential to transform the dominant, bureaucratic and paternalistic system of state social service provision in Russia? Based on interviews with NGO administrators and experts, governmental databases, media reports and academic studies, we found that the legislation confronted major problems and resistances. Our paper explains the main problems. First, in order to quality as providers of social services that could contract with the state, SONGOs had to apply for inclusion in a ‘regional register.’ Applications were reviewed by regional ministries of social protection, and for reasons that the paper specifies, relatively few SONGOs were admitted to registries. We found two main obstacles to registration. First, most SONGOs were small organizations that could provide specialized services, but not the ‘full complex’ of services, specialists, etc. that established state organizations could provide. SONGOs would have had to increase staffs, hire professional experts, and make other changes to their organizations and missions that many were unable or unwilling to make. Secondly, regional social sector administrators were responsible for the operations and staffs of established state organizations, and were unwilling to divert funding to non-state providers. SONGOs that were admitted to regional registers had difficulty finding clients, as most people from vulnerable social groups who relied on social services stayed with their accustomed routines. We next look at contracting from the perspective of SONGOs. They reported that, despite the difficulties of the contracting system there were advantages. SONGOs that contracted iv with the state to provide services had the possibility to get stable financing through the state budget, solving one of their largest problems, inadequate and unreliable financing. More stable financing would allow SONGOs to develop and improve the quality of their work. Contracting would also provide opportunities for communication and dialogue with state structures. While most SONGO representatives we interviewed saw the advantage, some concluded that joining the contracting system was too onerous or risky. In assessing the results of FZ442, we found that, two years after passage of the law only small numbers of SONGOs were included in most regional registries. We did find variations among regions. In a small number of ‘leading’ regions, administrations created successful systems of contracting, delegating part of social service provision to SONGOs. In the second group of regions authorities blocked SONGOs from registers and maintained strong dominance of state social sector institutions. We categorize these regions as ‘resisters.’ In a third group regional authorities engaged in’ formal compliance’, re-registering parts of state social institutions as SONGOs – creating GONGOs, Government-Organized NGOs. Political factors, particularly the orientations of regional governments toward SONGOs, their past experience of cooperation, seem to be a major differentiating factor. The causes of differences among regions merit further study. We conclude that FZ 442 has not fundamentally changed the practice of social service provision in Russia. A few regions show positive results, but there has been little change in the majority. However, experts believe that with certain refinements of practical mechanisms for the implementation of the contracting reform, it will be possible to diversify social service provision in Russia and improve the range and types of services available to the population.