USAID helps build MLSA capacity for effective public outreach on the new pension system

PRIP logoThe USAID-funded Pension Reform Implementation Program (PRIP)and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of Armenia (MLSA) have completed a three-month training program aimed at facilitating the implementation of the country’s new pension legislation and enhancing the customer outreach for the affected MLSA agencies. During the ceremony held in Yerevan on February 7, 2014, participants in PRIP’s training of trainers sessions received certificates for successful completion of the course. The first component of the training program focused on the new pension system and featured a series of legal advocacy sessions for regional social workers, including those working in the newly established Comprehensive Social Services Centers. The second component was designed to train qualifiedtrainers toconduct larger-scale public seminars on Armenia’s multi-pillar pension system.

Pre-training surveys conducted in all marzes of Armenia had revealed a strong demand for clear understanding and knowledge of the complex pension legislation. The MLSA “Pension System Awareness Center” Foundation (PSACF), tasked with this function, could not meet that demand with their own resources and required skilled trainers to improve and expand their outreach. Regional social workers also lacked relevant knowledge to support the reform’s rollout and manage public inquiries on their own.

In response, the USAID/PRIP trained nearly 400 regional social workers and conducted a rigorous training of trainers (ToT) program. Eight specialists received PSACF certificates allowing them to hold free public awareness seminars and training sessions for wider audiences across the country. These specialists underwent intensive training at the PRIP office, the Central Bank of Armenia, the State Depositary, the State Social Security Service and the State Revenue Committee. In addition, four employees of the PSACF Hotline (114) participated in the ToT program in order to improve the quality of their customer service.Post-training survey results have indicated a notable improvement in theirknowledge and skills.

The public relations and communications specialist in the State Social Security Service (SSSS), Aramayis Shahabekyan, who is one of the eight certified trainers, will provide advice to the MLSA and SSSS staff on pension related issues and will partake in public seminars arranged by PSACF. “All changes in the state social security system including amendments to laws and regulations,which have a direct impact on the social situation of the population, should become promptly available to all employees of the system.Our staff often needs trainings on particular topics,and we have lacked relevant trainers. Thanks to the training from the USAID PRIP program, I received detailed and comprehensive knowledge about all the players of the new pension system. I am confident now I can fill the information gap and share my knowledge of both the state- and fully-funded pension systems with all our employees,” said Shahabekyan.

The Head of the Artashat regional division of SSSS, SedrakSargsyan, noted that while their recently established Comprehensive Social Services Center was well-furnished and equipped with very good staff, it needed trained specialists to improve the work flow, increase the quality of services, and tackle different situations and public inquiries in an efficient manner. “This training helped us to improve our knowledge on the legislation framework of both the new fully-funded pension system and the current pay-as-you-go pension system, making it very clear to our staff. It was very important to ensure our employees are as knowledgeable as possible,as the pension reform affects all aspects of our work,” he said.

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