The President said he will soon initiate a number of events on the subject.
Ms Golikova reported to President Medvedev on a long-term pension system development programme and regional healthcare modernisation programmes that will get underway in 2011, and also the Open Access programme for people with disabilities that will be approved in autumn and implemented by 2015.
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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ms Golikova, there’s a topic I’d like to begin with. Generally, a nation’s living standards are judged by the well-being of its senior citizens and sophistication of its social services and overall economy.
I have looked at the statistics, and in the last 20 years we have seen an increase in life spans, which is something we have been striving to, and the overall number of older individuals has increased significantly. This includes those who continue working and those who are fully retired.
I believe the time has come to be more active in assuring their rights, to offer additional mechanisms to stimulate their labour activity, and to make [government] assistance to the pensioners more successful. We should turn this issue into one of action priorities for the state authorities, as attitudes toward children and toward the elderly generally demonstrate, as I said, the maturity of a national social welfare system.
I know this is subject of your attention. Do you have any suggestions? I think I recall some resolutions have been drafted for subsequent consideration by the Government. I will therefore arrange my schedule for the near future to accommodate meetings on this issue.
Healthcare and Social Development Minister Tatyana Golikova: I think this is one of the most important matters, something where our fellow citizens are expecting a progress, because what you said regarding demographic indices is real evidence that our nation’s longevity is growing.
Unfortunately, the share of retired individuals is also growing. While this is unfortunate in a certain sense, this means that we must have a very clear understanding of the prospects for developing the infrastructure to support these individuals. And not only is this a key challenge, but it is our duty under various respective international obligations that the Russian Federation has accepted.
No doubt, improvements in pensions, social security, medical care, and social services – these are the most essential priorities our [Healthcare and Social Development] Ministry must address.
Here, I would like to mention that in line with the instruction issued within your Budget Address, by October 1 – well, maybe we won’t be able to do it by October 1 – but in any case, we already are drafting and will then come up with our suggestions on a long-term pension system development programme. Evidently, the itemization of these suggestions may require some kind of modernisation of the social security system – in other words, the welfare and benefits structure, etc. Since this [security system] is mainly intended for senior citizens and disabled individuals, this will be the area of our major concern.
(The Minister then reported to the President on various problems in medical care, provision of medicines and in-patient treatment for retired citizens, and the Ministry’s plans to modernise public healthcare.)
Social services are another topic for consideration. Currently, social services are delegated to regional authorities. Even though some regions offer absolutely the best practices, in terms of regulatory control these practices are quite diverse, hence with the broad spectrum we have we are unable to judge on the overall quality of the services rendered throughout the Russian Federation.
Currently, we have 1,490 nursing homes, but there are still waiting lists and there are 20 thousand people who do not have the opportunity to take advantage of these services, I mean the people who live alone and are sick. We have issued respective directions to the regional authorities, specifically in line with your instruction following certain tragic events that occurred in the regions. There is some progress here, but so far, it has been fairly weak. The development of gerontological and psychological services for our older people is very important.
In this context, I would like to outline the fact that perhaps it is time now to offer common criteria for evaluating the development of the regional social services, while at the same time involving businesses in social services, as businesses are reluctant to operate here since the services are indeed social, usually and traditionally covered from the state budget.
Dmitry Medvedev: And hence generate low profit.
Tatyana Golikova: Yes, low profit, therefore, not much interest is demonstrated [by the businesses], although we in no way cause any obstacles, on the contrary, we welcome participation of the businesses in the [social] services.
I suppose we cannot avoid an issue that is indirectly related to the topic at hand, because among the elderly, there are disabled individuals too. In accordance with your instructions, we drafted the Open Access programme which will hopefully be approved this autumn and will be fully implemented by 2015. Indeed, this is not merely a programme for the disabled; these are principally new approaches to creating infrastructure.
It will be divided into two stages. During 2011 and 2012, there will be testing of pilot projects and determining which services these citizens truly need. Then, in 2013–2015, it will involve the wide-scale implementation of these projects throughout the country.
On the one hand, this is imperative, because we have joined the corresponding international convention and must ratify it. On the other hand, we must care for people with limited abilities, and there are many of them among our fellow citizens, among senior citizens first of all.
This work is certainly rather difficult and multifaceted, but I think that if we are able to set the right targets, and if we are able to make both specific and major decisions wherever required, then I believe that will bring very good results.
Dmitry Medvedev: Well then, these are all very important elements.
Throughout August and September, I have been involved with agriculture in order to overcome the hardships of the past summer. I hope that by now, a significant proportion of these problems have been resolved.
Thus, I would like to pay particular attention to these [social] matters and therefore we will communicate more actively and meet more often. So let’s set all of these points as priorities and assess our financial possibilities. We should certainly give close attention to pensions payments, medical care, medicines supply, and the marginal issues you mentioned. Ultimately, we have a major and serious challenge we should actively address.