4.6 Access to quality services
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In 2020 the Ministry of Economy in cooperation with OECD implemented a project on the availability of housing in Latvia “Policy Actions for Affordable Housing in Latvia”. In the framework of the project, the current housing situation was analysed and recommendations were prepared for improvements. The project concluded that there was poor housing quality; many households are overcrowded. A quarter of low-income families live in a house without basic facilities. The rental market is undeveloped; housing is outdated and does not meet modern requirements. The state supports only a small part of families with low income. The main support mechanisms are social housing and housing benefits. The state offers mortgage guarantees for families with children and young specialists until the age of 35. Around 44% of households are ineligible for public support for housing and cannot afford a mortgage. OECD has prepared a list of recommendations for the Latvian government to improve housing quality and availability.
According to data from the research “Well-being of Young People in the Baltic States (2018), 24% of young people aged 15-24 have very bad living conditions, in comparison to the EU average - 7 %.
According to the Ministry of Economy, it is planned to develop a comprehensive housing policy strategy by the end of 2021. The strategy will aim to develop support programmes for particular social groups, for example, families with children.
Social services and social assistance is provided after the evaluation of the circumstances of each individual. The evaluation of each individual’s needs is carried out by social work specialists. Social assistance is provided on the basis of an evaluation of an individual’s material resources – income and property. The purpose of social assistance is to provide material support to low-income persons and families in a crisis situation to satisfy their basic needs and promote the participation of the able-bodied persons in the improvement of their situation.
When an orphan or a child left without parental care stays at a long-term social care and social rehabilitation institution, the local government social service office and Orphan’s court, in co-operation with the employees of the institution, take measures to promote the child’s return to the family, to maintain contact between the child and parents or, if this is not possible, to seek a possibility to ensure care for the child in another family.
An orphan or a child left without parental care is ensured to receive support to start an independent life after out-of-home care. An orphan who is starting an independent life is entitled to receive help to solve housing issues, rental expenses until the solution of the housing issue is solved, money for starting an independent life, allowance for the acquisition of soft goods and household goods, monthly allowance. Upon presenting a certificate, a young person is entitled to use public transport free of charge in regional intracity and regional local routes.
From 2018 to 2020 the Ministry of Welfare financed two NGO projects focusing on the provision of individual mentoring support to young people after out-of-home care who are starting an independent life.
Information on the number of children in out-of-home care in Latvia can be found in Chapter 4.2. Administration and Governance.
The Public Health Guidelines for 2014–2020determined the overarching objective of the public health policy – to increase the number of healthy life years of the inhabitants of Latvia and to prevent premature death, preserving, improving and restoring health. The guidelines envisage measures for different public health target groups (including children and young people) to promote a healthy lifestyle, thus reducing the risk of chronic non-communicable diseases (obesity, insufficient physical activity, unhealthy diet, use of addictives, etc.).
One of the most important tools for the reduction of inequality is an investment in health promotion, disease prevention and provision of integrated health care services, focusing on the risk groups that are exposed to financial, geographic, etc. inequality. Social determinants have a significant role in the promotion of the population’s health and the provision of health care. Thus, in order to reduce inequality and to promote social inclusion, it is necessary to implement measures that would educate inhabitants exposed to poverty and social exclusion risks regarding the possibilities to improve and preserve health (for instance, organisation of classes for interest groups, education of young people regarding habits promoting a healthy lifestyle, organisation of measures popularising certain actions or opportunities in local governments, etc.).
To promote the healthy lifestyle of children and young people in Latvia, it is planned to resume the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) initiative – Health Promoting Schools movement – to perform a range of health promotion measures and mobilise schools to participate in the movement. During 2016-2020, 101 schools received a Health Promoting School title. Furthermore, the Eco-Schools programme – the largest global sustainable schools programme that has expanded in some 59 000 schools in 68 countries across the globe – operates in Latvia. It aims to engage the next generation in action-based learning and produce sustainably-minded, environmentally conscious young people.
The programme in Latvia is implemented by the Foundation for Environmental Education and Friendly School movement and Friendly House movement under the supervision of the State Inspectorate for Protection of Children's Rights. More than 200 educational institutions are involved in the Eco-school’s programme.
The Ministry of Education and Science developed a policy-planning document – the Sports Policy Guidelines for 2014–2020 to ensure implementation of middle- and long-term priorities in the sports sector. The guidelines aim to increase the ratio of the inhabitants who engage in physical or sports activities at least 1–2 times a month. The measures for sufficient physical activity to preserve and strengthen the population’s health are envisaged for every inhabitant, particularly students of general education institutions, vocational education, and higher education institutions, including children and young people with disability, as well as teachers and general practitioners.
The state covers all emergency medical help services, treatment and planned help in the event of acute diseases, including general practitioners care and home visits until the age of 18, if a patient's place of residence is in the territory of the family practitioner's professional activity.
In 2016 the Ministry of Health established a commission to foster achievement and implementation of the aims set in the Public Health Guidelines for 2014–2020 and to counsel the establishment, development and coordination of a network of healthy local governments in Latvia. In 2020 draft of new Public Health Guidelines for 2021-2027 was prepared.