Beneficiaries of international protection have access to social welfare on equal terms as nationals. There is no difference drawn between refugees and subsidiary protection beneficiaries.
Forms of social assistance
Social assistance can be provided inter alia for the following reasons: orphanhood; poverty; homelessness; unemployment; disability; long-term or severe disease, violence in the family; the need to protect the child and family; addiction (alcoholism and drug addiction); difficulties in integration of foreigners who were granted refugee status, subsidiary protection, sudden and unpredictable situations (natural / ecological disaster, crisis situation, random event), difficulties in integration due to leaving the care and educational institution or prison.
Social assistance is granted to beneficiaries of international protection whose income does not exceed PLN 701 (161 €)(for a single person), or PLN 528 (121 €) (for a person in the family). The application for social assistance has to be filed before the Social Welfare Centre (Ośrodek Pomocy Społecznej, OPS) which is located in the district where beneficiaries of international protection reside.
Beneficiaries of international protection are also entitled to family benefits and supplements (świadczenia rodzinne i dodatki) under two conditions also applicable to Polish nationals: (a) residence in Poland; and (b) the average monthly family income per person in a family, which cannot exceed 674 PLN or 764 PLN if the child in the family is certified as disabled. They have a right to apply for:
- Family allowance
- Childbirth aid and supplement
- Attendance allowance
- Parental benefit
- Supplement for the beginning of the school year, education away from home, education and rehabilitation of a disabled child, rising a child in a numerous family, rising child alone, and caring a child during parental leave.
Furthermore beneficiaries of international protection have a right to apply for special financial support under the government “500+ Programme”, which is paid on monthly basis. This benefit is for families with children, and should be spent on the need of child regardless of income. For families with a disabled child, the net income criterion is 1,200 PLN. The benefits are granted by Municipal Office of Social Welfare, acting on behalf of the President of the city.
In 2017, Polish authorities denied granting that benefit in several cases, concluding that beneficiaries of international protection did not meet the formal legal requirements, as the residence card which they presented did not include the annotation “access to the labour market” (see Residence Permit). However, the Regional Administrative Court of Warsaw ordered the authorities to grant the benefits. Consequently, the Polish authorities changed their practice and no longer refuse the special financial support on the 500+ Programme on that basis.
On the other hand, single mothers who are recognised beneficiaries of international protection, still face obstacles to receiving the above mentioned benefits. According to the law, they have to provide a court with a writ of execution (tytuł wykonawczy) confirming maintenance benefit from the other parent. As a result of these regulations, they are deprived of that benefits because they are not able to present that required document due to their exceptional personal and family situation.
Individual Integration Programme
Beneficiaries of international protection are also entitled to the Individual Integration Programme (IPI) provided by the Poviat Family Support Centres (Powiatowe Centra Pomocy Rodzinie, PCPR). The Programme takes 12 months during which integration assistance is provided. This assistance includes:
- Cash benefits for the maintenance and coverage of expenses related to learning Polish language;
- Payment of the health insurance premium specified in the provisions on general insurance in the National Health Fund;
- Special social counseling.
The social worker carries out the so-called environmental interview with a beneficiary of international protection and his or her family, and then together with they draw up an IPI. The programme determines the amount, scope and forms of integration assistance, as well as mutual obligations of the beneficiary and PCPR. The minimum cash benefit amount is PLN 647 (149 €), per person per month. Since 1st October 2018 beneficiaries of international protection are entitled to receive:
1) during the first 6 months of the integration program:
– up to PLN 1376,00 (317 €) per month – for a single person;
– up to PLN 963.20 (22 €) per person per month – in a 2-person family;
– up to PLN 825.60 (190 €) per person per month – in a 3-person family;
– up to PLN 688 (158 €) per month per person – for a family of four and more.
2) in the period from 7 to 12 months of the integration program:
– up to PLN 1238.40 (288 €) per month – for a single person;
– up to PLN 866,88 (200 €) per person per month – in a 2-person family;
– up to PLN 743,04 (171 €) per person per month – in a 3-person family;
– up to PLN 619 (149 €) per month per person – for a family of four and more.
PCPR assists the beneficiary to obtain housing in a place of residence his or her choice, where he or she is obliged to reside during the 12-month period of the IPI. A change of residence is allowed in particularly justified cases. In case the beneficiary changes residence in the region without informing PCPR, the programme will be terminated.
In practice, beneficiaries face a range of obstacles in obtaining social assistance, ranging from lack of awareness of their rights and language barrier, to the discretion of authorities in the limits of financial assistance granted, to the requirement of translated forms and official documents which cannot be obtained from their country of origin e.g. alimony judgment to receive the “500+” child benefit. The need for the entire family to reside in Poland may also pose difficulties.
As one study finds, social policy provides few or no resources needed to function independently in Poland. By delivering mostly financial assistance, integration programmes helped families to get by on a daily basis but failed to build the resources needed to become independent. For some participants, the programmes strengthened their feelings of lack of control over their lives and the helplessness already developed during the asylum procedure. The case workers interviewed in the study explained that, because they have too many integration programmes to manage monthly, it was practically impossible for them to offer any social work counselling, and they instead focused on managing monetary transfers.
In 2018 the Polish government spent 1,440,867 PLN (343,063 €) (down from 2,131,587.75 PLN / 513,600 € in 2016) on different kinds of social welfare for refugees and 2,318,295 PLN (579,573 €) for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. Social assistance was provided in the form of social assistance, psychological and legal support, assistance in local institutions, financial support, and cash benefits for learning the Polish language as part of the implementation of the individual programme of integration.
Social Welfare Centres assisted 236 families of recognised refugees (which covered 296 people) and 394 families under subsidiary protection (which covered 461 persons) throughout 2018.
 Ministry of Family, Work and Social Policy, Information, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/38IyKOm.
 Legal Intervention Association, “SIP w działaniu. Prawa Cudzoziemców w Polsce 2018”, 2019, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/36CSAZX.
 Ministry of Family, Work and Social policy, ROZPORZĄDZENIE MINISTRA PRACY I POLITYKI SPOŁECZNEJ z dnia 7 kwietnia 2015 r. w sprawie udzielania pomocy cudzoziemcom, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/38PPAuB.
 Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘Prawo do świadczeń rodzinnych cudzoziemki objętej ochroną uzupełniającą w sytuacji, gdy nie wszyscy członkowie rodziny zamieszkują w Polsce, PCPR’, 10 January 2018, available (in Polish) at: http://bit.ly/2C8IYey.
 Lukasiewicz, K., ‘Exile to Poverty: Policies and Poverty Among Refugees in Poland’, International Migration Vol. 55 (6) 2017, 65.
 Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy, Report 2017, available (in Polish) at: https://bit.ly/2SFg2AE.