The dedication of the many voluntary participants was appreciated by Head of the Integration Department Nargess Eskandari-Grünberg and Head of the Social Welfare Department Daniela Birkenfeld. “The pension helpers are valued, personal companions along the long path of the pension application process. Their real significance, however, is in helping migrants to secure their legally acquired right to claim a pension. I hope that this very successful concept of pension help will be replicated at other local authorities,” said Eskandari-Grünberg, acknowledging the work of the project’s volunteers. Councillor Daniela Birkenfeld stressed: “
The Department of Multicultural Affairs deserves praise and recognition for having initiated the development of a multilingual service. It is traditionally the responsibility of the Social Welfare Department to provide citizens with help and information on issues relating to statutory social security. For helping with the obligatory fulfilment of the tasks of the Social Security Office the ‘Intercultural Assistance’ project is a very important extra service – one that focuses not least on the needs and wishes of the public.”
When it comes to applying for a pension, many applicants are unable to cope with submitting the required documents and certificates. In the case of people with a background of migration the application process is frequently made more difficult by language barriers on the part of the applicant and also of their pension advisor. At the start of the project in 2002, the focus was on assisting first-generation migrant workers from countries such as Turkey, Spain, Greece and Italy and from countries of the former Yugoslavia.
Now the range of languages on offer has been extended. There are in total 25 pension helpers, who currently provide assistance in the following languages: Amharic, Arabic, Berber/Moroccan, Chinese English, Greek, Italian, Croatian/Bosnian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Sotho, Spanish, Tigrinya, Czech, Turkish and Zulu. A staff team in the Social Security Office assists on the pension project and acts as the main point of contact for the pension helpers. The helpers’ meetings with the applicants take place in the Social Security Office.
The pension helpers provide the applicants with information and assist them in the pension application process and with submitting the necessary paperwork. They also help with contacting pension offices in other countries, if applicants have any entitlements from time worked abroad. Appointments for the ‘intercultural assistance on pension issues’ can be made via the support hotline in the Social Security Office on 060/212-74949.