Many countries offer a myriad of social benefits and services to meet the diverse needs of their populations. Examples of social programs include cash transfers (conditional or unconditional) or in-kind benefits, social services for children, youth, parents, or the elderly; as well as labor and activation programs.
Although these programs may seem quite different, they usually pass through common phases along the delivery chain, including:
- determining potential eligibility, via outreach; application and registration; assessment of needs and conditions;
- taking decisions on enrollment and the benefits or service package; and
- carrying out the implementation cycle of transactions (payments or service provision) and active case management (including counseling, conditionalities monitoring, accompanying measures, grievance redress).
Social Registries support the first phase of this delivery chain. They are information systems that support outreach, application, registration, and determination of potential eligibility for one or more social programs.
They have both a social policy role, as inclusion systems, and an operational role, as information systems. While there are many technical aspects involved in designing and implementing Social Registries, their role in social policy is actually quite simple: to provide a “gateway” for potential inclusion of intended populations into social programs.
- For individuals, families or households, this typically means knowing when and where they can register for potential inclusion, what is the process, what information and documents they will need to provide, how they can check on the status of their application or file a grievance, and when they will be notified of eligibility and enrollment decisions. It also means knowing when and where to update their information, and whether or not they can register at any time – particularly if their situations worsen.
If multiple programs use common application and registration “gateways” (as “Integrated Social Registries”), beneficiaries can potentially gain access to a broad array of benefits and services, with far fewer transactions costs.
- For administrators, key functions include reaching out to intended populations to inform and reach them for intake and registration, collecting information and documentation from citizens (usually via application questionnaires taken in person or online, interviews, and possibly home visits), entering and managing the information, cross-checking for consistency and accuracy (including with other information systems), assessing potential eligibility against program-specific eligibility criteria, managing complaints and grievances.
Harmonizing expensive steps, such as application and registration, can generate efficiencies and cost savings when multiple programs use an Integrated Social Registry – even if they each use program-specific eligibility criteria. Data validation and verification, oversight and controls, and interoperability can also boost information quality and accuracy.
In addition to supporting registration and eligibility functions, the data produced by Social Registries are also used by countries for other purposes, such as calculating benefit levels, validating information collected through other methods or sources, assessing potential demand for interventions, planning and costing interventions depending on projected coverage rates, monitoring and evaluation, or other analytics purposes.
Social Registries can also serve as “dynamic” gateways for inclusion of the poor and vulnerable, meaning that access to registration is open and continuous, usually with on-demand applications combined with active outreach to vulnerable populations. This dynamism is closely related to the human rights agenda and the realization of universal social protection, whereby anyone who needs social protection can access it at any time.