President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues,
It’s a pleasure to welcome you to the 3rd Congress of Social Workers [and Social Pedagogues]. It is a momentous event for all of you and for the sector to which you devoted most of your lives. This is the third time the Congress has convened, and I am glad to have this opportunity to meet with you and discuss several issues.
”I decided recently to concentrate our efforts on social services in our country and the problems of the elderly, because it really should be a national priority.“
I decided recently to concentrate our efforts on social services in our country and the problems of the elderly, because it really should be a national priority and I don’t think that requires any special explanation. Moreover, as a rule in our country nothing much happens without the state’s attention to these problems. Therefore, the more attention an issue receives at the highest level, the easier it is to resolve the problems, and there are many of them, as you know very well.
Recently, I discussed this issue at a meeting in Kursk, and later held another meeting here in Moscow; it will also be on the agenda of the State Council Presidium. I made several visits to get a better view of the situation: I toured several social facilities in Kursk and just now I dropped by a nursing home in Moscow which focuses on providing social services.
The profession of a social worker is not new but it is very relevant. There are more than 500,000 social workers in our country. Just now, when I was visiting Ms Tsyplakova [Lyudmila Tsyplakova, director of the nursing home for labour veterans #31 (Moscow)], I said that the professionals working in this field are all extraordinary people, who because of their beliefs and their personality are capable of working with a very demanding group, with the older generation, and often they work in extremely difficult conditions while earning a very modest salary.
”I believe it is also essential that the problems of the elderly are addressed jointly by state agencies and NGOs, public associations and the business community. This is precisely the right field for our business community to show its maturity.“
This is a difficult and very demanding job, which requires a high degree of spiritual involvement. You do this every day, showing understanding, consideration and patience. It is no secret that people in our country are not spoiled by an abundance of social services. We are not as developed as other countries in this respect. But what have I heard people say at all the social facilities I have visited? They say, “Thank you very much. We have the best social workers in the world, the best director, the best department head, the best nurses and doctors.” They may believe it because they simply get used to what they have but I think this is largely because the people working in the social services sector are enthusiasts who give their energy every day to the many challenges they encounter in their jobs.
As for the challenges, I think you can tell me about them yourselves. At the moment we are looking at opportunities to improve the situation in the sector, if not immediately, then at any rate, to change it gradually by allocating funding and taking sensible organisational decisions. There is a lot of work to do.
Ms Tsyplakova and I have just discussed the issue of staff shortages, for example. There is a famous saying belonging to one of the Marxism-Leninism classics that it is better to have less but of higher quality. The classic was right in the sense that it is better to deal with some situations by making qualitative changes. Even when we talk about employees, it is obvious that many problems can be addressed by concentrating efforts on managing payroll numbers and introducing a new remuneration system and new organisation of work.
Modern technology is very important, including management and distance learning; it is vital to engage in creating mobile teams, in providing medical and social assistance, especially in rural areas, because not all people, even in cities, can come to the facility they need in person.
I believe it is also essential that the problems of the sector and, accordingly, the problems of the elderly are addressed jointly by state agencies and NGOs, public associations and the business community. This is precisely the right field for our business community to show its maturity.
We know how actively business communities abroad are involved in this field, simply by making donations and through sponsoring private facilities. I think it is time our businesspeople learn from their example. It is great to make money, and it is probably nice to spend it too, but everyone should have a set of responsibilities. I believe that caring for the elderly should not only be the concern of their families or of the state, but it should be the duty of all successful people. Those who have been able to succeed must make a contribution in this field. Of course this doesn’t mean that you should demand money from them. It should be a moral obligation.
There are also regional problems. The situation in Moscow is quite good because it is a prosperous city with a large budget. But the situation in the regions is different. People work selflessly in Moscow and in other regions of our country, but the budget provisions are different. Social workers around the country earn different salaries, ranging from five thousand rubles, which is certainly not enough, to more or less decent numbers that we have in Moscow and some other major regions. We need to smooth out these irregularities.
We do not have a centralised approach – in fact, it would be impossible to adopt it for obvious reasons – but we must not allow such imbalances, especially since the people are doing virtually the same job, and they do it, as I said, with the same degree of dedication and dignity.
I think that should be enough to launch a productive discussion. Once again, I welcome you to Moscow. I have no pre-prepared lists. Those of you who wish to speak, share your ideas. Later I will probably ask some of our government officials to say a few words.
Go ahead, please.