INPS and Apulia Region: a system to combat poverty
Apulia region/INPS Regional management (National Institute of Social Welfare), Apulia, Bari

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
The Italian Constitution and laws protect workers and disadvantaged groups. INPS is the largest institution for social security and protection in the country. In southern Italy there is a greater concentration of economic and social crisis that the current world situation has increased in recent years, while reducing available resources and affordable costs. In this context, INPS Puglia has made great efforts to improve services to citizens and now pay pensions and social security benefits within 30 days of request, examines companies' applications for deferral of payments and certifies their regular contributions within 15 days. In Italy, the Region is an institution deemed necessary by Constitutional provisions; a self-sufficient entity, which operates under public and administrative laws as public authority; it is an institution of mandatory membership, since all residents are part of it. In relation to the State and other local authorities (Provinces and Municipalities) the Region has statutory, legislative, regulatory, administrative, financial autonomy. The Region of Puglia has 4 million inhabitants. The Gross Domestic Product per capita of the people of Puglia is 67, compared to the 100 which is the national average (119 for the North of italy, 105 for the Center, 65 for the South). Social safety nets are Welfare mechanisms with a closer connection to the employment relationship: they provide financial support to workers who have lost their jobs, according three schemes: 1) protection during the employment relationship (benefits for employees whose companies need reduction or suspensions in the working hours); 2) social insurance of employment, for those who are involuntarily unemployed; 3) means of protection for older workers exiting the labor market (redundancy payments, for dismissed workers, often after a layoff). To cope with the continuing economic crisis, the legislation has introduced the so-called exceptional social safety nets, which extend essentially to all private sector workers the provisions previously reserved for certain categories, i.e. layoff benefits and mobility allowance. Some of these remedies, however, have extinguished their legal effects, and today, especially in southern Italy, many workers over fifty find themselves out of the labour market before having acquired pension rights. They are fathers of families, often reduced to poverty due to lack of work.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
In December 2010 The Puglia Region joined the European "Welfare to work" actions for the implementation of active policies for recipients of exceptional social safety nets. When the funds provided by the State on behalf of these workers ended, the Region has felt the moral obligation to intervene. In Italy we do not have a guaranteed minimum income, a deficiency which the Puglia Region has compensated with the attendance allowance, of 500 Euros gross, paid to the ex workers admitted to retraining courses. The regional economic resources are scarce and the money to be used for grants to unemployed people who had not yet earned the right to retire have been withheld from other institutional activities, which are considered less worthy: the belief was that an ad hoc and timely intervention against poverty in Puglia was necessary, at any cost. The Regional Direction of INPS agreed with these goals, working actively together to help these disadvantaged citizens. The INPS is in fact the institutional body responsible for the payment of benefits to provide income support to workers and thus has a solid organizational structure for that function. The INPS has undertaken to pay, on behalf of the Region of Puglia, a special subsidy for workers who are older, unemployed and without unemployment benefits, consisting in 500 Euros for five months. The agreement between INPS and Region disciplines the payment of installments of compensation income support to workers eligible for benefits, as long as they sign a "Pact of service," a commitment to attend the training courses. The Regional Direction of INPS Bari has secured the necessary speed and the simultaneous payment of the first two monthly payments to the beneficiaries. A provision is set for the establishment of a "skills assessment" to calibrate re-training courses mandatory for a period of five months, to the beneficiaries of subsidies. During this time they could benefit allowance of € 500 gross per month, two months of which are paid on the signing of the "Pact of Service", the other to be paid after verifying the actual participation in the retraining courses as certified by the Job Centres. The INPS has had to overcome administrative and techno logical difficulties to grant the payments. The Institute was able to pay in two installments and quickly: the first tranche was paid simultaneously to all workers, the second one as they completed the planned retraining courses. There were no complaints, for which the Puglia Region would have been the judge: a proof of precision, transparency and care with which investigations of the submitted applications were held. Many workers, although meeting the requirements needed to obtain the benefits, have been excluded because the documentation was incomplete. The plan is scheduled to reopen to allow these workers to submit their applications again.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
It is an innovative and unprecedented agreement in Italy: never before INPS and a Region had developed and implemented an agreement to give a subsidy to the poor. But it also did much more: an essential condition for the entitlement of the benefit was the provision of a training and retraining course, which would guarantee workers to be accompanied in the search for a new job. The training courses were divided into 3 phases: information, guidance and training, with accompanying activities towards getting a job, such as internships and work esperience. A positive dialogue and synergy of two institutions was created in the area, to work on the drama of the socio-economic situation in a timely manner, to give an answer to those who deserve assistance and income support: a practice unique to Italy, and a measure against poverty in a region with a dramatic social and economic situation. An initiative to be selected and re-enter the labour market. The training courses in order to acquire skills particularly in demand from the labor market, have been structured on the basis of the indexes of employability, as announced by the Regional Labour Market Observatory.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The Action for Welfare to Work system for the period 2012/2014 aims to implement policies and welfare to work services to balance the effects of the crisis on employment and labor markets to push towards achieving the employment targets of Italy set for 2020. It promotes active policies able to support the process of reintegration into the labor market of workers who are disadvantaged, expelled or threatened with expulsion from the production process. To achieve these results, it focuses on training and developing of people skills to meet the needs of companies, it aims at a more efficient use of the system of social safety nets, it aims to enhance the matching of demand and supply of labor by establishing standards quality of services, it promotes the use of the most suitable forms of contract, especially apprenticeship, and the available means for the reconciliation of work and life schedules. The goals are accomplished through four lines of action: 1. State / Regions Agreement on exceptional social safety nets and active policies 2. Strengthening and enhancing the role of the public Job centers 3. Ri-placement of young and unemployed workers, and the development of competitiveness 4. Integrated planning of employment policies and development. The project ends on 31 December 2014. With the Regional Council Resolution no. 249 of 19 February 2013, the Region of Puglia has set, independently from its original financial resources, the resources of income support for workers who, having lost their jobs have also lost the benefit of social safety nets. On 19 February 2013, the approval of the "Plan of extraordinary income support" set to pay a special regional benefit to workers that affected by the crisis and acquired the right to mobility schemes in 2012, were excluded from the benefits of mobility schemes in 2013 and were still unemployed. The Region has funded fully and independently this action allocating almost € 11 million in support of these workers. The Region has also identified the recipients of the special allowance, monitoring its requirements. With the call for applications published in the Official Bulletin of the Region of Puglia in March 19, 2013, a new opportunity to specialize and re-enter the labor market has been offered With the authorization of the General Direction of INPS, on February 13, 2014the Agreement between the President of the Puglia Region and the Regional Director of INPS Puglia for the implementation of the Special Plan for the recipients of income support was signed. The Pact of Service is a scheme used by Employment centersto formalize the agreement with the unemployed and employed on the chosen project, whether it is a job placement support or a participation in a training program. It refers to workers laid off for business or employment crisis, and unemployed who want to attend training courses. When signing the service agreement, the worker defines an individual action plan in which all actions for entering or re-entering the world of work are contained. The Skills Assessment is a process of evaluation of the current situation and potential of the employee, which ends with the completion of a project for the professional development of the person; it involves a thorough evaluation to define a real and concrete job goal. It is built using all that has to do with work in a person's life and in particular motivation, skills, interests, values, personal qualities. The courses' subjects are computer skills, foreign languages, commerce and sale of food and beverages, personal and family care, communication, and so on. Each enrolled in the course gets on its completion a certification from the Job Centre, which is a necessary condition for the payment of the second installment from INPS, i.e. the last three months of benefits.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The Central Direction of INPS authorized the Director of the Regional INPS the signing of the agreement and provided the technical specifications to grant the payments. The Centers for Employment in Italy are the public offices that manage the labor market locally. They are structures of the Regions and work at the provincial level, with expertise in the placement of workers at private employers, pre-selection and matching of demand and supply of labor; initiatives to increase women's work; programming in the area of the labor market, disadvantaged, training, and so on. The employment centers of Puglia have taken care of the signing of the Pacts of service, and then supported the beneficiaries in the process of retraining, and certified the end of its successful completion. Tax Assistance Centers (better known as CAF), in Italy, are organizations established by law, that employers and employees turn to for tax assistance, usually for the tax return. The Patronage is an institution that exercises functions of assistance and protection in favor of workers, pensioners and generally all Italian citizens. It is a direct offshoot of a trade union, whether of employees, self-employed, or both. The CAF and the Unions have provided assistance free of charge to employees for submitting electronic applications.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
€ 10,889,935.71 were transferred from the State to the INPS, for the disadvantaged workers and their families. As a result, a total of n. 4,110 requests were received, of which 4,086 passed through CAF / Unions through the online platform; 24 were transmitted in a manner different from the online platform and therefore not eligible. Following investigation on the 4,086 instances, the regional administration has proceeded with the publication of the beneficiaries list, with 3,033 employees included on the list and then the beneficiaries; n. 450 were excluded due to the absence of the subjective requirements, or lack of documentation; n. 244, were excluded as pertaining to recipients of special mobility benefits until June 2013; n. 352 were excluded due to the total absence of the documentation provided in the public notice, as well as the signing of the instance of the worker (for a total of n. 1046 rejections); n. 7 instances are suspended, as it is a pending dispute with INPS for the recognition of the status of the recipient of special mobility benefits. Of the 3,033 persons included in the scheme, 2918 showed up and were received and interviewed by the employment centers in the region. For each of them a skills assessment was prepared in order to effectively calibrate the new curriculum. From January 20, 2014 onwards, workers recipients of income support had to report, within 15 days, to the competent Employment Centre for the signing of the Pact of Service. The first two installments of the grant of 500 Euros were paid in a lump sum to all beneficiaries. The worker, as engaged in a course of training and retraining for those expelled from work and not receiving the exceptional social safety nets, receives the final payment of the last three months by the INP at the certified end of the course. With the managerial determination no. 2 of 9 January 2014 the Department of Labor Policies has approved the list on the public notice "Income support in favor of parties excluded from receiving special social security benefits." The grant is awarded in order of ranking and within the funds' availability. The program has involved 361 employees of the employment centers, enrolled 3,748 students, with 3,520 skills' assessment provided, enabled 3,228 students to start their retraining, 323 students have already completed their courses and received their payments by INPS and a further 172 students have been certified the course's completion. The ranking and all subsequent updates will be available on this page, With 111 courses in the catalog, 276 professionals were involved as teachers.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
There was a broad participation: as well as the presence of the INPS to support the income support scheme, over 220 organizations were accredited for training, 111 courses were available in the catalog, 276 professionals for lectures; 189 organizations offered courses in the catalog. These courses, on 12 thematic areas, enrolled 1485 students. 128 between CAF and Unions are credited to the portal for the electronic transmission of applications and are enabled to certify the will to retrain of the participants. The INPS centralized at the regional level all activities concerning the payments of the monthly installments, while ensuring transparency and speed in the process of disbursement of subsidies. The accuracy and precision of management is demonstrated by the total absence of complaints from interested parties, in a region where it is much more frequent to turn to administrative and judicial litigation in order to obtain the recognition of the rights claimed by the citizens. Implementation of the initiative increased efficiency and reduced red tape: in fact, the C.A.F. and the Unions have provided assistance free of charge to employees for submitting electronic applications. INPS has paid first installmentswithin 15 days after receiving the lists of 2.898 beneficiaries.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The Employment Centers have been operating with 361 civil servants at provincial and sub provincial level: with care and attention they fully defined training programs based on the needs expressed by ex-workers, their previous experience at work, their potential to express new skills and to enrich the curriculum with new experiences. Participants were led by tutors who accompanied them along the way, guiding and directing choices, supporting them in moments of discouragement and despair. The best evaluation of the results will come when, at the completion of training it will be possible to see how such retraining affects new employment. We currently have 323 completed courses and the fees have been paid in total in favor of 172 beneficiaries.They were paid within seven days of the submission of lists

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
In no more than 300 words describe the main problems that were encountered during the implementation and how these were addressed and overcome. The main obstacles were sometimes difficulties for the applicants to produce comprehensive documentation for the success of applications. It is for this reason that the program will be renewed in case of remaining available budget. In addition, the training provided and the possibility of re-employment often did not correspond to the profile of the experiences and expectations of potential beneficiaries, and sometimes this has delayed the start of training courses, which were adapted from time to time to make more appropriate and responsive to the internal and external reference context.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
INPS has been involved for years in actions of incremental improvement of services, constantly monitored by an advanced management control system. At the same time, policies implemented in recent years to reduce costs, including the incorporation of all minor insurance institutions who were operating at the national level and included assistance first performed by state institutions, making it the largest institution at the European level and worldwide. Everything is documented in the financial Report published each year, including the Annual Social Report disclosed and available on the company website www.inps.The reporting is indeed another important strategic commitment in the policies of the Institute, and is realized not only at national level but also by the Industrial relations in the regional offices, including Puglia. The Directorate-General of INPS Puglia has also won numerous national and international awards, including the prize UNPSA 2013 to the fight against corruption. All these strategic and operative lines are arranged in a context of severe social and economic elements, constantly worsening because the structural problems of the economy of southern Italy and the global crisis that has devastated also economic realities much more structured and robust than ours. If the Puglia Region and INPS had not embarked this new and difficult process, thousands families in Puglia would be left without sustenance, and the despair sometimes causes irreparable acts, as the local media recently show too often. The economic crisis has destroyed thousands of jobs, as documented by the local and national statistical bodies. The workers of the companies, after a period in which they were able to take advantage of the redundancy provisions of national laws, are now without a source of sustenance for themselves and their families. To deal with the social emergency we certainly needed to do something.The Puglia Region and the INPS, as part of their institutional responsibilities, albeit limited compared to the importance of national and global problems, have not only provided a subsidy for poor families, but also enabled a virtuous cycle of analysis and study of the local environment.In fact, the individual skills of the workers who were involuntarily excluded from the labour market have been analysed and compared with the potential of the area in terms of job requests. A specific strategy was developed and the training needs were compared with the training opportunities within the local community.One of the most difficult stages of development of the project, that has been already successfully faced, concerned the optimal matching between candidates and training program. Then, we worked on the training programs, modifying them according to the real capability of trained people to enter into the work market. The trainers have revised their programs and their competences to match more accurately to the specific needs of the territory.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The European action Welfare to Work is a strategic axis in which Puglia has believed and invested several resources. Of course, in this period of scarce resources, and especially in public services, it is good practice to divert resources from other initiatives to invest on retraining and reskilling of workers that were excluded from the labour market before entitlement to a pension. If Italy is involved in the reception of foreigners fleeing the tyranny and seeking for politic asylum, and if it helps refugees, it cannot fail to look at its citizens who, without personal faults, live conditions of enormous economic difficulty and that, due to the advanced age, do not have a skill "attractive" for the work market. Similar initiatives are underway in other Italian regions, including Veneto and Friuli, and all data and information related to the project here described are available to the Government, which will obtain though these information sources useful information to develop new national and international policies to support effectively inclusion in the labour market.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
In a period of structural economic crisis the dynamics between education and the work market are very complex and require a chorus of interventions at all levels of responsibility.In this period is very important realize educational actions on individuals, companies, communities, and the political world. It is necessary to create the conditions in which our world, the world that we know and want to maintain, can be preserved and find new energy, to make citizens aware and placed in a social proactive and productivecontext. We want to create the social and economic conditions to ensure that our children can find a world in which to live and create new families, in which they can base their existence, as stated by the Italian Constitution.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Apulia region/INPS Regional management (National Institute of Social Welfare), Apulia, Bari
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Giovanni Di Monde
Title:   Superior executive  
Telephone/ Fax:   00390805410641
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   Via N. Putignani 108
Postal Code:   70122
City:   Bari
State/Province:   BA

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