There are a number of factors that influence local welfare policy and social innovations in Plock:
- characteristic of the city and scope of its legal decisions and responsibilities;
- recent economic and social developments in Plock; and
- types of local and external “stakeholders” initiating innovations.
Characteristic of the city and scope of its legal decisions and reponsibilities.
Płock is the historic capital of Mazowsze, located in the north-western part of Mazowieckie province (Ciechanowsko-Płocki sub-region according to NUTS-3 classification) approximately 110 km from Warsaw. According to the Central Statistical Office, at the end of December 2010, the population of Płock comprised 124,727 permanent residents; among these, women constituted 52.4 per cent (Central Statistical Office, Local Data Bank). In terms of population size, Płock is counted among medium-sized cities. Płock is a city with county rights (NUTS-4), which means that the scope of its tasks differs from that of the communes. Due to its status as a township, the tasks of the city of Płock include maintenance of public education institutions, implementation of a family support policy, as well as assisting the disabled (District Family Assistance Centre). On the other hand, the tasks of the city include maintenance of the road infrastructure, the water supply, sewage and sanitary systems, social assistance (maintaining of care centres and institutions), public housing, maintenance of elementary schools, kindergartens (nursery schools) and other education and care institutions, social, medical and legal assistance for pregnant women.
As a township, Płock is responsible for independent financial management within the scope of its budget. The main sources of income for the city are taxes, charges and other receipts, income from the city property, a general subsidy from the state budget, as well as special purpose donations for implementation of ordered tasks and for additional financing of own tasks (Statutes of the City of Płock 2008). In the case of the city of Płock, in year 2010, 65 per cent of its income consisted of internal income. At the same time, the share of own income of Płock in overall income is similar to the average for all cities in Poland (Central Statistical Office, Local Data Bank).10 In Płock, there are several universities and colleges, including the branches of The University of Warsaw and Warsaw University of Technology11. Companies play important role in the city, being providers of workplaces and helping solve different problems related to the city. The companies cooperate with local authorities and other local stakeholders to solve some of the most important problems of the city.
Recent developments in Plock: transformations of the local labour market
The local labour market and economy in Płock, like the national level and economy of the Ciechanowsko-Płocki (Ciechanów-Płock) sub-region, reflects the growth and slowdown trends associated mainly with accession of Poland to the EU in 2004 and the global economic crisis of 2008-9. Positive impact of membership of Poland in the EU is indicated, among other things, by the GDP values per inhabitant. Płock can be referred to as a city of industry and services, while the role of the agricultural sector is small. The highest investment expenditures of Płock companies in 2009 were observed in the industrial sector. In 2009, in Płock, 69 per cent of all employed inhabitants worked in the private sector, and 31 per cent in the public sector (Central Statistical Office 2010).
In years 2000-9, the percentage share of the unemployed among the professionally active population decreased substantially in Płock. Reduction of unemployment after the accession of Poland to the EU was caused by migration abroad to search for jobs. At the time, the local press of Płock reported “insufficient number of employees”, particularly in professions requiring low qualifications and/or manual labour. In 2010, the registered unemployment rate in Płock amounted to 10.9 per cent, and in the case of the Ciechanowsko-Płocki sub-region and on the national level it was equal to 15.6 per cent and 12.3 per cent, respectively. The available statistical data show that social groups that are more threatened by unemployment in Płock are women, young people, the elderly – persons aged 55 years and above – and persons with lower education. The same tendencies can be observed at the national level, as well as in the Ciechanowsko–Płocki sub-region.
Over the last 10 years, Płock has been characterised by a substantially higher share of women among the registered unemployed in comparison with the sub-region or the entire country. The problem of unemployment pertains mainly to women who had been employed before (Mackiewicz 2009). The closing of some factories in the last few years where women have been employed caused the increase in their unemployment. Nevertheless, due to fluctuations in the economic conditions, the number of women professionally out of work grew systematically in the years 2000-9.
Outflow and inflow of population from and to Plock (migration)
Despite of relative attractiveness of Plock in the context of the Ciechanowsko-Płocki sub-region, the city is unable to stop the outflow of the population, which mainly migrates to Warsaw or abroad. In Płock, in the years 2005-9, the balance of migration abroad for permanent residence was usually negative, and the balance of temporary migration abroad was positive. The immigration from abroad, earlier mainly from the Soviet Union, after 1990 from Ukraine, Belorussia and the Far East (Vietnam, China), is small. These immigrants do not have very active organisations and their own centres.
Typology of initiators of social innovations in Plock (and their examples)
City authorities using EU funds
The situation on the labour market has been one of the main problems encountered by the city authorities. Most activities, implemented by the labour market institution, are based on spending of EU funds for professional trainings and consulting for the unemployed.
Cooperation between the city authorities and local enterprises. The “Grant Fund for Plock” is an initiative of the Municipal Office of Plock and two corporations operating locally – PKN ORLEN S.A. and Basell Orlen Polyolefins – established in 2003. Cooperation with two large founders is based on social business responsibility. The main objective of the Foundation is to improve the quality of life of inhabitants of Plock. Another innovative initiative, which emerged during the works of the Forum for Plock, was establishment of the Grant Fund for Plock in May 2003, on the initiative of the Municipal Office of Plock and PKN ORLEN S.A. The Fund was supposed to provide the financial basis for NGOs of Plock working to support the Strategy for Sustainable Development.
Cooperation among city institutions, NGOs and inhabitants (with support of the European Social Fund). The project of social revitalisation of the part of Plock inhabited by populations endangered by social exclusion is an example of cooperation among city institutions, NGOs and inhabitants. The City Social Assistance Centre in partnership with the Professional Development Institution and the Association “Innovation Centre for Information Society” has been implementing the programme “TOGETHER FOR REVITALISATION – a pilot programme for social revitalisation of the Old Town of Plock”, co-financed by the European Social Fund. However, the most significant were the effects of the ICIS association work, which introduced real changes in the community of the Old Town based on participation. Working together on the establishment of local green areas, the inhabitants started to feel responsible for the appearance of their community.
Grass-root initiatives are basis of activities of nongovernmental organizations. The associations whose activities are aimed at a specific group of immigrants – those from the East (Russians and Ukrainians) – demonstrate that grassroots initiatives form the basis of activities of nongovernmental organisations. At the same time, the Association works on behalf of the Russian minority of Plock, that is, the descendants of Russians, who came to the city during the 19th century. According to the president, cultural and assistance events are particularly needed by immigrants, who, to a certain extent, feel torn between Poland and their country of origin. The activities of the Association is managed by immigrants from the East themselves and persons of Russian origin. Activity in Plock is not easy due to small-scale migration to the city, illegal migration (immigrants are suspicious) and diversity of the groups of foreigners, who came to the city over various time periods. However, a greater number of initiatives with more active support of the city authorities could make the immigrants noticeable as one of the groups of inhabitants having specific needs in terms of social support.
Support of the national institutions for Plock NGOs. The aim of the Ministry of Economy, Labour and Social Policy is to secure the position of NGOs as an integral element of the new child and family care system. Consequently, government policies are geared toward developing local community-based infrastructure to support families in the proper discharge of their responsibilities for children. The centre provides children with round-the-clock permanent or temporary care and also secures the necessary livelihood, developmental needs of the child.
Spreading social innovations brought from other local communities. The City Social Housing Societies are social developers appointed by the local authorities. Their work is focused mainly on construction and renting houses to implement the housing policy of the commune. The CSHS of Plock is the largest company of this kind in Mazowsze and one of the largest in the country. The CSHS offer is addressed to the less affluent inhabitants, who cannot afford to purchase or rent an apartment on the free market. The flats are rented to those who participated in the costs of construction. As they remain the property of the city, they cannot be purchased, but the tenancy rights can be inherited.
External financial support given by the EU. European Funds are one of the major drivers of both infrastructural and social development in Poland nowadays. Active labour market policies as well as lifelong learning activities are important areas supported by the European Social Fund. Therefore, it is not surprising that the financial support given by the EU, especially in the frame of the ESF and the European Fund for Integration of non-EU Immigrants (EIF), is the important factor in the context of sustainability of the discussed local initiatives. For example, in case of mentioned TSOs helping immigrants, applying for EU funds is crucial for their projects, as they receive irregular and partial support from the city. Resources of the European Fund for Integration of non-EU Immigrants (EIF) allowed for intensification of activities aimed at integration.
Due to lack of a clear integration policy in Poland and existing restrictions on social assistance available for immigrants, the Fund actually replaced the state activity in this regard. Similarly, the support for social cooperatives is possible owing to the projects realised by the Labour Office and based on ESF money. However, there is a risk that the initiatives based mostly on these funds may lose sustainability in future programming periods when the European Commission introduces changes in the structure of the EU funds. On the other hand, in Plock, the EU money supports the great majority of the activities against unemployment implemented by local welfare institutions (such as The Labour Office), TSOs and private entities, which usually offer training and courses for various categories of unemployed.
In conclusion, building participatory democracy in Plock takes place even it faces problems. Creation of third sector organisations often based on individual initiative as well as building cooperation among different local stakeholders facilitates social cohesion of the local community. These types of activities are significant because of low trust of the government and its agencies in Poland (WVS 2012 unpublished) and the historically proven belief that citizens are most successful if they take their problems into their own hands. The last decade shows that the governmental agencies responsible for social policy increasingly understand (with a support of European Commission) the importance of identifying important problems in the city and ways to meet the needs of different social groups. Similar to many other countries, commercialisation of services takes place, which may polarise local communities, dividing them according to income and types of social networks that different groups have at their disposal.