Social security institutions play a vital role in society. As the main point of contact between the government and citizens, such institutions help individuals in situations in which they need support and advice. Citizens must be able to know where to look for support, and to know what support is available, how to access it using their chosen service channel and what are their rights and responsibilities. Above all, the institution has to deliver on its promise if it is to earn the trust of citizens.
Social security institutions have the important duty of informing citizens about their rights and responsibilities and helping them to make informed decisions, particularly with regard to the long-term consequences of those choices. This is why they should be proactive in reaching out and in communicating practical information with the intended audience in a way that is easily understood and through the appropriate channels, in a timely way.
The expansion of digital communication in society creates new possibilities for greater access to information in “real time”, where citizens are directly in quasi-permanent relation with institutions and other stakeholders. In this context, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of what the institution stands for, what its mandate is, what programmes and services it offers and what rights and responsibilities the citizens have.
Providing greater access to information via a range of channels can also present new challenges. One of these lies in the fragmentation of the communications context. It is therefore vital to have a proper understanding of how strongly public awareness of social security issues may be influenced by pressure groups or even by algorithms.
The key to a successful social security institution lies in connecting the relevant external and internal stakeholders (e.g. beneficiaries, contributors, employers, social partners, politicians, social security system employees, media, etc.) to share information, knowledge, expertise, experiences and opinions, and ultimately create added value for the benefit of all parties involved.
An effective communication function should result in:
- Informed citizens who understand the benefits and the responsibilities attached to social security systems;
- Information made available in a way that is timely, accessible and adapted to the needs of the user, whether external (citizen, partner) or internal (employee);
- Better quality service delivery and cost containment by increasing general knowledge and encouraging self-service, thus reducing workloads on front-line staff;
- Increased confidence of the public in the institution’s ability to deliver its mandate, ultimately helping to get its messages adopted by the public;
- The establishment of a communications unit responsible for sharing the institution’s information and key messages.
The ISSA Guidelines on Communication by Social Security Administrations provide a general framework for the good governance and systematic management of communication practices. As communication should be systematically linked to management of the organization’s risks, these Guidelines should support the establishment of appropriate controls and risk management. These international professional standards were developed from a broad consultation with experts and the worldwide ISSA membership.