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Poland revises the Social Assistance Act

In 2020 the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy in Poland proposed a draft amendment to the Social Assistance Act (Journal of Laws of  2020 item 1876). The legal act,  among other things, regulates the Individual Integration Programmes (IPI), assistance programme for recognised refugees, people granted subsidiary protection and their families in Poland. The Individual Integration Programmes is a 12 months programme that includes  financial support and specialised counselling, aimed at improving self-reliance, Polish language competences and chances for employment. Programmes are coordinated by social welfare centers (OPS) or poviat (country) family support centers (PCPr) -  public institutions under the responsibility of local governments.

First of all, the amendment extends the list of people eligible to benefit from the IPI, including people with refugee status or subsidiary protection who are spouses of Polish citizens. According to the current regulation, they cannot participate in individual integration programmes on account of being married to a Polish citizen.

Secondly, the proposed novelisation lifts the obligation of the registration at their place of residence for people participating in individual integration programmes. According to the draft, migrants  will be obliged only to provide the address of their place of residence. 

Although the amendment provides some steps in favour of integration of migrants with refugees and subsidiary protection status, as well as members of their families, the important issues reminds to be  the unequal access to public assistance programs among forced migrants upon the  forms of granted protection. 

Integration support remains unavailable to migrants who have obtained permission for residence in Poland for humanitarian reasons, despite the fact that it is one of the forms of protection provided be the legislation. According to the recent statistical data, the number of people with granted residence permit for humanitarian reasons definitely prevails and, in the majority of cases, migrants with this form of protection are families or single women with minor children. After leaving the reception center, the inability to obtain systematic financial support, language learning support or vocational training puts migrants and their children at risk of unemployment or work at precarious conditions without access to social welfare, homelessness, poverty, deterioration of physical and mental health. 

The further work on the draft amendment to the Social Assistance Act should include the review and changes of admission grounds of the Individual Integration Programmes to migrants with granted residence permit for humanitarian reasons. 

A draft amendment to the Social Assistance Act, [access date 18.01.2020]. 

Kseniya Homel 
NIEM’s researcher 
The European and Migration Policy Programme
Institute of Public Affairs