Including the Excluded: Improving Social Protection Services in the Dominican Republic
10 Apr 2017
Challenge Between early 2003 and May 2004, approximately 15 percent of the Dominican population (1.4 million people) became poor, and about 6.5 percent (600,000 people) fell into extreme poverty, due to an economic and financial crisis in 2003 that undermined real incomes. With a recently established Social Cabinet mandated to monitor and oversee all social assistance and protection programs, the Dominican government committed itself in early 2007 to important reforms of its social assistance programs. Central to this effort was locating and providing documentation to poor people who were excluded from social services because they lacked proper identification papers. Strengthening the targeting of social programs, particularly the cash transfer program, was another goal. The government identified approximately 400,000 poor individuals eligible for social assistance programs (subsidized health insurance, cash transfers, and others), but who had been excluded for lack of legal identity papers. Approach The objective of the Social Protection Investment Project was to improve the coverage, targeting, and effectiveness of social protection programs in the Dominican Republic. These programs combined preventive, promotional, and active measures with the goal of improving the education and health investment (that is, the human capital development) of the poorest Dominicans. The project used a multisectoral approach to document excluded individuals by financing an active search for poor undocumented Dominicans and then guiding them through the process of obtaining their identification documents. The active search included the coordinated participation of the Social Cabinet’s institutions, the Central Electoral Council, and the municipalities to ensure the services were delivered to beneficiaries. This component used output-based financing. In addition, the project facilitated the introduction of improvements in the cash transfer program by confirming conditionalities in education and health that had not formerly been verified. The project supported improvements in the monitoring capacities of the education and health ministries involved, and it supported the design of a pilot for a community-based social audit mechanism (Community Report Cards) that was successfully expanded nationally by 2015. Finally, the project supported institutional development and strengthened the monitoring and evaluation capacities of the Social Cabinet, leading to improved targeting, updating the poverty status of the families registered in the Unified Beneficiary Identification System, and consolidating social programs.
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