A Technical Seminar on proactive and preventive approaches in social security was organized by the ISSA on 22 June, bringing together a range of experts, CEOs and managers of social security organizations to discuss how social security could integrate proactive and preventive approaches into its polices and operations and ensure effective and efficient delivery of services.
Proactive measures including prevention and early intervention tackle major risk factors to reduce the need for social security benefits, promote employment and facilitate re-integration. This broadened role of social security requires social security institutions to build capacities to anticipate evolving risks and calls for improved coordination and cooperation both between different social security schemes and branches and with wider public policy initiatives.
The ISSA has developed a two-level definition to cover the concept of proactive measures, including prevention and early intervention: Level 1 involves measures that seek to eradicate the eventuality of a possible, avoidable future risk and related future social needs. Level 2 involves measures to stop or mitigate an identified risk from having a negative impact or an aggravation of the impact of a risk event that has already occurred.
The Technical Seminar focused on four cross-cutting themes:
1. Proactive and preventative approaches supporting employment and activity
Employment is essential for social security programmes and for economic and societal progress. It is therefore of paramount importance for social security to promote employment through maintaining and investing in human capital and through avoiding or delaying exit from the labour force into benefit receipt. Proactive and preventative approaches are instrumental to reach these objectives. For example, early intervention and collaboration of several social security programmes in considering a person in an integrated manner rather than the person having to seek different benefits subsequently from different separate institutions reflect such approaches.
2. Proactive and preventative approaches supporting health
Health is a key component of individual well-being and human capital, and it is an important factor in managing and controlling social security expenditures. Healthy societies are less affected by social inequalities and experience less poverty-related diseases. They are also better prepared to cope with globalization and unexpected events. Health promotion, the adoption of integrated preventative approaches and a broader definition of health care systems are therefore key measures to avoid the need for various benefits (e.g. health care, accident insurance compensation, disability, extended unemployment benefits, early retirement) and have important external benefits on society and the economy.
3. Proactive and preventative approaches supporting empowerment and responsibility
The traditional role of social security systems has been to protect individuals in the case of certain defined events. Complementary to this more passive role of responding to an event that has already occurred, more recent practices have proven positive effects of proactive and preventative approaches in social security on the freedom of choice, empowerment and independence of citizens. For example, family benefits provide choices with regard to the work/family balance and invest in future generations. Proactive approaches often focus on the capacities of the individual person and aim at empowering this person to make certain choices and to manage risks partially or completely by him- or herself. This reflects an integral element of proactive and preventative approaches: increased investment in individuals, but also some expectations as to their behaviour, choices and responsibility.
4. Proactive and preventative approaches supporting sustainability
A recurrent concern in public policy is the financial sustainability of social security programmes. This has become highly relevant for schemes such as old-age, invalidity, survivorship and health insurance schemes. It is therefore pertinent to look into a more institutional, coordinated perspective on how to concentrate efforts to prevent a situation in which reforms and new technologies that require significant investments may endanger sustainability, where benefits cannot be paid, promises can no longer be honoured, and the impacts of major crisis are not mitigated with appropriate risk management.
As part of the programme priorities during the triennium 2011-2013, the ISSA Technical Commissions will further develop analysis and exchange on proactive and preventive approaches in social security.