In the morning our group visited the institution for social insurances (SVA), office of invalidity insurance (IV-Stelle). The institute provides assistance to persons who can no longer work due to disability either physical or mental health. The agency is in the first pillar of the three pillar concept. It was interesting that this agency provides cash assistance, pensions, daily benefits, and compensation to those who need it, such as if the person becomes disabled or unable to perform the duties of a particular job. At first, I was understanding that the benefits began immediately when it was needed, but upon further explanation I learned that it took up to a year for the application process, and that in some cases longer.
I really liked that the agency was trying to make receiving this type of assistance more culturally acceptable. The agency tries to integrate the people into society by placing them in jobs that are more functional to the persons abilities rather than them leaving the workforce. In the United States, it is a difficult, long process that usually ends in frustration of the people pursuing benefits. The process can take several years, and often times people have to obtain lawyers in order to move further along in the process. The SVA also promotes individuals self-responsibility, while providing support and guidance along the way. I like that they have a team of employers who are willing to employ people who may have a disability or mental health diagnosis.
The most interesting part was listening to the client stories. Also, about how the program was a success for these two women. I learned afterward, however, that the endings are not always so happy. It seemed somehow more similar to the United States process after one of the Swiss students explained that it is not always that way. The SVA also gave us fun little cards that were sort of a “where’s Waldo” game, to find the client that might be needing the assistance from the agency.
In the afternoon, our group went to Notschlafstelle, a homeless shelter in Zürich. It was shocking to see the nice conditions of the shelter. In the United States the homeless shelters are large open rooms with cots for each person. In Zürich, there were separate rooms that either had two beds, or four beds per room. The people are allowed to smoke cigarettes or marijuana in the stairwell or in some rooms. It is also interesting because there are rooms that are separate from the main rooms where people are able to do heroin or smoke other things besides the cigarettes or marijuana. The shelter provides sterilized needles and a bucket to dispose of their needles.
The Zürich shelter requires that a person pay 5 Swiss Francs to stay each night. I did not understand this because I do not think that people without homes should have to pay to sleep. However, I think there should be something said about how the Zürich shelter shows how the community values the life and dignity of those in poverty. After further explanation, the social worker explained that most of the people get assistance from welfare, and the five francs is minimal compared to the cost to run the shelter. It also teaches a person self responsibility, if they have twenty francs, they can either spend them all on beer or choose to save five to spend the night in the shelter.