Social services need help, too.

PEOPLE in Spain asking municipal social services for help has more than doubled since 2008.

In 2008 social workers assisted 5,802,674 people, a figure already growing by between 7 and 15 per cent per year. Within 12 months this had jumped to 36 per cent.

In 2009 – the last year with available government statistics and which exclude the Basque Region and Navarra – almost 8 million people approached social services for help or information.

Most requests came from the elderly and families, followed by assistance for children and the disabled. There are just over 4,000 municipal social workers in Spain and with each responsible for around 1,500 people, cases can take a long time to resolve. Financial aid for those with no means of support takes between three months and a year to come through, depending on the region.

Maria Jose Redondo, who attends to the public two days a week from 9am until 2pm in a small Lugo town would once have interviewed eight people daily, but now sees 15. “We have to carry out personal interviews, make home visits and deal with a lot of paperwork.  You can’t do that in a 10-minute consultation,” she said.

“Rather than volume of enquiries, overload is caused by a virtual absence of decisive, rapid and comprehensive policies.  That social services redirect some cases to non-government organisations – however admirable their work –verges on shameful,” claimed Luis Barriga of the State Association of Social Workers.

Spending cuts have also affected social workers, with some services now outsourced to outside firms.

“You could say we have fewer people and greater demand,” admitted Ana Lima, president of the Committee of Social Services Employees. Social Services could barely cover half the applications, she said, but priority usually went to families with children.

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