Background: Challenges & Objectives
From 2011 to 2013, the number of people qualified to receive social welfare increased by 73 percent, rising from 1.48 million to 2.574 million. However, the number of social welfare workers increased by a mere 18 percent, from 3,674 to 4,365. This created a bottleneck effect, as all social welfare-related work is carried out through community service centers. The shortage of social welfare workers has made it difficult to provide prompt services to those in need, resulting in personnel and material gaps in the public welfare delivery system.
The rapid industrialization and urbanization of the Republic of Korea resulted in low life satisfaction among Koreans. Among the 34 OECD member countries, Korea ranked 26th in this category in 2013 and 25th in 2014, while ranking the lowest, at 34th, in the Community Index for two consecutive years in 2013 and 2014. Korean society has become a place where everyone works only for their own benefit.
The number of low-income citizens not receiving welfare benefits has reached nearly 290,000, and the number of households defaulting on their electricity bills for periods of three months or longer has reached 75,000. These figures are an indication of the large number of households that are unable to receive social welfare benefits, such as the mother and her two daughters in Songpa-gu, Seoul, who committed suicide due to poverty. However, many still consider poverty to be a personal problem rather than a societal one.
Since the role of community service centers, which are points of direct contact with residents, is limited to handling civil complaints and administrative tasks, few people actually visit them in search of support. Moreover, the proportion of people that trust the government stands at only 40 percent.
We sought solutions by focusing on recreating Seoul as a citizen-centered city where people are happy and establishing community service centers that work together with residents.
2. We have launched universal welfare programs that are customized to each stage of citizens’ lives and are not limited to only low-income households. These programs target at-risk families in welfare blind spots, elderly citizens who have reached the age of 65 or 70, and households with new mothers. By breaking away from our focus on addressing only civil complaints made by residents who visit community service centers, we have implemented a system where social welfare personnel visit the homes of the residents with the goal of eliminating blind spots in the social welfare system.
3. We have also assigned visiting nurses to the community service centers and tasked them with conducting thorough medical checkups for residents in order to narrow the health and health span gaps.
4. We also reorganized the functions of the community service centers by expanding the common spaces for residents and making various other improvements.
5. Furthermore, we provided support to help connect the many small groups of residents with various other meetings and create a regional community by identifying local problems that need to be resolved and making decisions on the solutions through resident assemblies.
Results & Evaluation
○ As part of the Reaching Out Community Service Center initiative, we provided follow-up management for neighborhood (dong)-level cases in which people with a wide range of needs were provided access to local and social resources that were ideally suited to satisfying such needs.
- These cases were classified into categories corresponding to the needs of the people and the needs that were identified through surveys. As a welfare control center, the community service center provides services in consideration of the sources and capacities of diverse public and private organizations working in conjunction with related local institutions and organizations, including welfare centers, mental health centers, public health centers, community childcare centers, and schools. The community service center also conducts continuous monitoring and addresses the changes in people’s needs.
○ In order to foster communication with residents, support the solution of problems, and form a network of residents to provide community caretaking and sharing activities, we have implemented the “Neighborhood Official Program,” in which one person takes charge of all activities in a certain neighborhood.
- The tasks of neighborhood officials include: greeting important members of the community, such as the neighborhood head; meet regularly with residents, mainly in major areas of the neighborhood; identify residents in need (low-income/at-risk families) and carry out related support activities; and identify residents who have resources they may be willing to share with others.
- We also listened to and resolved the civil complaints regarding issues that were making the daily lives of local residents difficult or inconvenient
○ We operated spaces open to all residents.
- The Reaching Out Community Service Center project is an initiative that has shifted the traditional focus of community service centers away from civil complaints and general administrative affairs and transformed the centers into open and easily accessible spaces for residents. As part of this initiative, not only the content of the centers but also the physical spaces were improved as well.
- Seoul’s public architects and private architects working in various fields who have an understanding of the public sector participated in the transformation of the community service centers. They redesigned the spaces, and the centers were renovated in consultation with residents and public officials. These renovations focused on rearranging workspaces in line with the new focus and functions of the community service centers and greater numbers of welfare workers and turning underused spaces into open, public spaces, such as book cafés and film screening room.
With these goals in mind, a total of 200 public and private architects participated in the project. Through the “One Architect, One Community Service Center” system, the architects were able to create effective, open spaces in consultation with the residents of each area. When these spaces were finally opened to the public, each community service center became the center of its respective local community, providing a basis for people to share information about marginalized members of their communities and stay informed of and work toward resolving local issues.
Expectancy effects & Need for Improvement
○ Seoul Metropolitan Government was responsible for the initial design of the project. After the design was complete, participating districts were chosen through an open call, and action plans were developed and implemented in consideration of the specific circumstances of each district and in cooperation with the private sector.
- April 2014: Established plans for the operation of a taskforce to reorganize the functions of community service centers and the implement related measures.
- June-September 2014: Consulted with private welfare organizations and experts regarding policies.
- September 2014: Established the basic plan for community service centers and formed the promotion headquarters.
- December 2014: Called for the first round of proposals and promoted the recruitment of more personnel, etc.
- March-June 2015: Carried out test operations of community service centers in four neighborhoods and promoted the improvement of spaces in the centers involved in the first round of the project.
- April 2015: Confirmed the title of the project (Reaching Out Community Service Center) and developed a brand identity (BI).
- July 2015: Launched the first round of the Reaching Out Community Service Center project, encompassing 80 community service centers.
- September 2015: Called for the second round of proposals and promoted the recruitment of more personnel.
- March 2016: Began onsite monitoring of the first-round community service centers, consulted experts, etc.
- July 2016: Presented the results of the first-round centers and launched the second round of the Reaching Out Community Service Center project, encompassing 203 centers.
- October 2016: Called for the third round of proposals.
○ We also recruited more personnel for the Reaching Out Community Service Center project.
- The government added 340 visiting nurses, 67 neighborhood enterprise experts, and 1,534 social welfare workers, reducing the number of eligible social welfare recipients for which each social worker is responsible from 170 to 115. It also recruited more personnel to provide support for residents in different stages of their lives.
- KRW 18.731 billion in 2015 ⇒ KRW 54.433 billion in 2016 ⇒ KRW 72.05 billion in 2017
Department / Contact
- International Relations Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government / firstname.lastname@example.org