Improving the system of social protection through the introduction of inclusive quality community-based social services


The strong growth performance driven by hydrocarbon revenues, helped to lift Turkmenistan from low-income to an upper-middle income status by 2012. Yet, the global fluctuations in oil prices since 2014 and external economic factors affected real household incomes and increased vulnerabilities. Experience of other countries shows that social implications of economic difficulties and lack of community alternatives forced families to rely more on custodial care in institutions[1].  According to the official statistical data of Turkmenistan, the number of children with disabilities in boarding schools increased by 56% between 2007 and 2017[2], mostly due to the absence of services at community level for children with disabilities. Children, persons with disabilities and elderly people in the country are served in 11 large highly structured institutions. Women carry disproportionately large load of unpaid care and domestic responsibilities, thus stepping in to cover gaps in the social protection system[3]. According to the UN studies, responsibility to provide unpaid care deprives women from opportunities to engage in income-generating employment, participate in social life and pursue education. Since women in Turkmenistan tend to work in the low-paying segments of labour market[4], non-existent or weak social services on community level make it especially hard for female heads of households to afford any type of care and social assistance their families need. The levels of violence at home, both against children and women are still to be measured, however, the MICS data indicates that more than a third of women justifying physical violence. There is a need to develop preventive and support services to deal with domestic violence, as well as  social services for GBV response at community-level to mitigate  risks for survivors and remove additional barriers for women from rural and remote areas forced to seek assistance in residential facilities located far away from their place of residence.

The relevant social legislation in Turkmenistan (the Code on Social Protection) includes regulations on social services for adults with disabilities and older people and reflects a medical approach in the provision of social services. The legal provision is not sufficiently aligned with the CRPD and CRC and focuses more on the partial or complete loss of the ability of beneficiaries of services to satisfy basic life needs and on their constraints rather than on the role of social services to support people to live independently and to empower service users and address structural issues. This understanding of social services is to a certain extent preconditioned by the definition of disability which also takes the medical approach in determining disability, that  is not aligned with the CRPD definition of disability that signals a need for a paradigm shift from a medical to social model and from a welfare approach to a rights-based model. The current legal understanding of social protection conflates cash benefits with social services and access to social services is category-based with no mechanisms for the individual needs of service users to be taken into consideration. There is a need to improve legal regulation of services for prevention of human trafficking and to develop new legal acts regarding violence against women and children.

Essentially, the country’s  social protection policy mainly provides cash benefits (7 per cent of the budget allocations and 1.3 per cent of GDP in 2017) and largely relies on extended family to support vulnerable people, including children without parental care, and to provide care to people in need of support with basic care needs. This approach is in keeping with Turkmen culture, social and family norms and traditions and any new system of social services should aim to further build on this deeply rooted informal system of support. However, as economic and other social challenges create challenges to families leaving them less able to provide care and support, the formal system of social services and support needs to reform in order to ensure that children, women, people with disabilities, older persons and youth are not being left behind.

Goal of the project

The purpose of the JP is to make a transformative change in the current system of social service delivery in Turkmenistan to reach out to the most deprived and vulnerable population and address their specific needs. The Government of Turkmenistan has prioritized improvement of social services in its mid-term national development programme and human rights action plans and seeks support of the UN Country Team in implementing the national priorities aligned with the SDGs. The desired change will be achieved by creating a nationally appropriate model of inclusive community based social services, and accelerating achievement of substantial coverage of the poor and multiple vulnerabilities[5] specifically addressing the needs of children with disabilities, children without parental care, children at risk of separation from parents, people with disabilities and older persons  in need of support with basic care, women facing gender-based violence and youth at risk. The prototype model of inclusive community-based social services will promote social protection approaches that empower service users and innovative solutions for addressing at all levels, the multiple vulnerabilities and needs of those currently being left behind. The model will be informed by the results of assessment of the individual needs of the target groups and an inventory of the supply of social services as well as a review of legislative and regulatory frameworks and institutional mechanisms for coordinating delivery of social services. A social service workforce will be created and capacity strengthened to deliver the new model of inclusive community-based social services. The theory of change is underpinned by an assumption that practical development of social work and prototype social services that empower service users will provide evidence to accelerate introduction of new legislation, regulatory frameworks and institutional mechanisms so that the system will be ready to go to scale by the end of the JP.

To ensure implementation of the LNOB principle, the JP will undertake an integrated three-pronged approach: i) examining the needs of people who are the most left behind, ii) empowering them by shifting the role of beneficiaries from passive receivers to active participants in the social service system; and iii) enacting an inclusive, far-sighted and progressive social service policy.


[1] The World Bank report “Moving from Residential Institutions to Community-Based Social Services in Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union”, 2000

[2] Statistical Yearbook, 2018

[3] 2015-2016 MICS survey

[4] Statistical Publication “Women and Men”, 2019

[5] SDG Target 1.3





Project start date:

January 2020

Estimated end date:

December 2022

Focus area:

  • eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions
  • Project office:

    UNDP in Turkmenistan

    Implementing partner:

    United Nations Development Programme

    Full project information  

    Funding Support by

    Donor name

  • Undp Funding Windows
  • Mptfo - Joint Sdg Fund (previously Known As The Joint Fund For The 2030 Agenda)
  • Amount contributed


    Delivery in previous fiscal year

    2020 $36,356

    2019 $0

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