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SOCIAL VOUCHERS: EFFICIENT TOOLS TO SUPPORT SOCIAL POLICIES

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40+ COUNTRIES – 100+ MILLION USERS

Developed in 46 countries, incl. 19 EU member states – Used by nearly 80 million people worldwide.

Social Vouchers, whether paper or digital, are social benefits attributed to workers collectively by their employers, public or private, carrying a right to access specific goods or services that improve their working conditions and facilitate their work-life balance (such as access to food, culture, transportation, childcare, holidays…). Instruments valid only in a single State provided at the request of an undertaking or a public sector entity and regulated by a national or regional public authority for specific social or tax purposes to acquire specific goods or services from suppliers having a commercial agreement with the issuer. (Directive (EU) 2015/2366 on payment services in the internal market, article 3k(iii): social vouchers present a number of characteristics that differentiate them from payment services or E-money).

Such goods or services are accessible within a dedicated network of merchants and providers which is built through a contract-based relation with each merchant/provider by companies issuing social vouchers and ensuring their proper efficiency, notably by avoiding their conversion into cash.

Social vouchers, usually supported by a public policy and sustained by a national tax and/or social framework, enhance a virtuous social and economic model while stimulating local and national economy to meet a dedicated social purpose.

Public Authorities can also adapt social vouchers to distribute welfare to their citizens as an alternative to allowances in cash or in kind. Social vouchers have been developed in 40 countries (19 EU Member States) over the last 50 years to facilitate the implementation of social policies and meet the needs of employers, employees, citizens, as well as public authorities.

Impacts and potential of social vouchers to encourage sustainable consumption as innovative tools for social inclusion and local development:

FOOD AND MEAL VOUCHERS

give access to food during the working day or provide basic goods to people in needs

PERSONAL AND HOUSEHOLDS SERVICES VOUCHERS

give access to home and basic care services and foster work-life balance

TRANSPORT VOUCHERS

facilitate employees’ transportation expense to their workplace

LEISURE VOUCHERS

encourage citizens to adopt healthy way of life and habits guaranteeing them an easy access to sport and wellness facilities

CHILDCARE VOUCHERS

improve work-life balance of working parents and boost women’s employment

CULTURE VOUCHERS

improve access to culture for employees and citizens

ECO-VOUCHERS

support the green consumption and foster the sustainable behavior of citizens

Examples for work-related vouchers (benefits for workers), public service vouchers (social inclusion) and local development vouchers (local development): Eco-vouchers in Belgium are given by employers to employees to purchase products or services with a low or positive environment footprint; Ch èque culture in France, Holiday vouchers in Romania, Food vouchers in Brazil and Mexico, Tourism vouchers in Czech Republic.

In France President Emmanuel Macron explained that every Frenchman over the age of 18 would receive 300 euros for cultural events.

The funds are for tickets for a movie, theater, concert, museum or for books and musical instruments.

There will be an opportunity to use electronic platforms.

However, the condition is that the value of these costs does not exceed 100 euros and that American giants such as Netflix, Disney or Amazon are not used. The so-called “cultural omission” will be valid for two years.

In Bulgaria From 12 to 165 children from one school are going on vacation without money. The “Together Again” program is initiated by the Ministry of Education and Science and will be implemented jointly with the Ministries of Finance and Tourism, after students spent most of the school year absent due to the emergency situation in the country. As a result, the emotional and physical condition of the students is destabilized. The six-day student tourist trips aim to overcome the consequences of COVID-19, incl. lack of active social life. The program also includes classes in science, arts, technology and sports.

The implementation period will be until September 14, 2021, and the budget will be BGN 15,000,000. The program will provide a one-week vacation for 30,000 children.

It covers state and municipal schools and is designed for students from I to XI grade (divided into groups of 10 to 15 students) in the school year 2020/2021, including group leaders – teachers and other pedagogical professionals, educators, psychologists, pedagogical advisors and medical specialists. In addition to the tourist package, the activities include organizing visits to cultural and historical sites, craft workshops, sports events, theaters, cinemas and others, sports, discussions and educational games in various fields, meetings with celebrities.

The pedagogical councils will decide who will travel, the director will send 3 offers to tour operators electronically to the Ministry of Education and Science.

Hours after the Education union warned that there could be a lot of tension around the one-week student camps at the expense of the state, the MES announced for public discussion the framework of the new “Together Together” program. It confirms the initial information that the Pedagogical Councils in the schools will determine which children should go on a free holiday for the families. However, it introduces new benchmarks for the number of small holidaymakers according to the size of the school. Initially, the information was for up to 70 children from school.

It is now planned that schools with more than 150 students can apply with up to 7% of the total number, but not more than 165 participants. The smaller ones will send up to 12 holidaymakers.

The application deadline will be from the approval of the program by the Council of Ministers until September 1 or until the funds are exhausted.

3 offers from tour operators will be submitted, and the documents will be sent electronically to the Ministry of Education and Science with a copy to the RWB. The maximum amount for one school is BGN 82,500 with a 6-day package worth BGN 500 (or ab. 250 EURO) per person. 70% of the requested amount will be transferred upon approval, the rest after a contract with a tour operator.

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Petar Gramatikov

Dr. Petar Gramatikov is the Editor in Chief and Director of The European Times. He is a member of the Union of Bulgarian Reporters. Dr. Gramatikov has more than 20 years of Academic experience in different institutions for higher education in Bulgaria. He also examined lectures, related to theoretical problems involved in the application of international law in religious law where a special focus has been given to the legal framework of New Religious Movements, freedom of religion and self-determination, and State-Church relations for plural-ethnic states. In addition to his professional and academic experience, Dr. Gramatikov has more than 10 years Media experience where he hold a positions as Editor of a tourism quarterly periodical “Club Orpheus” magazine – “ORPHEUS CLUB Wellness” PLC, Plovdiv; Consultant and author of religious lectures for the specialized rubric for deaf people at the Bulgarian National Television and has been Accredited as a journalist from “Help the Needy” Public Newspaper at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland.

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