“We Will Not Glory About The Number Of People We Help, But About The Number Of People Who Are Not In Need of Help”

Yavuz Saltık, Head of the Department of Social Services, where we talked about the ‘social work policy’ of IBB, noted that they have adopted a ‘help-based approach’ in the field of social work in the new era, noting that they are working to solve urban poverty with the ‘system graduation'. “We will reduce the number of people who are in need of help with the system graduation," Saltık said that municipalities glory about the number of the roads they build or the amount of asphalt they pour every year. We are not going to glory about the large number of people we are helping but about reducing the number of people in need of help,” he said.

As part of the Yuvam İstanbul project, we discussed about the social work policy and the work they carried out during the pandemic, with Yavuz Saltık, the Head of the Social Services Department of the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality, who we met at the nursery opened in Esenyurt.

How do you sum up social municipalism? What are the top issues in your priority ranking? What problems are urgent, especially when the data shows that Urban Poverty is increasing?

For the social municipality, we can say that it is the local equivalent of the social state. Bringing together the social policies developed by the local governments with the citizen and fighting against poverty and reducing inequalities with an egalitarian approach is a must for a social municipality. The understanding of the central state around the world, which takes over everything, is replaced by the state that examines the services performed. This extends the effectiveness and working area of the local governments. In such a conjuncture, where decentralization becomes important, the municipalities have much more roles and responsibilities. The women, children, disabled people will be our priority. During our 1-year study period, we understood that these sectors are one of the most affected groups by Urban Poverty. We have set out to serve for Istanbul, which has a huge population of 16 million, by producing policies in accordance with this new approach.  Istanbul is a beautiful city with its differences, just like Turkey. But we see that our differences, which people have by birth and are actually our wealth, have created some inequalities and deepened these inequalities due to the exclusionary political approach and the understanding that “I do not serve those who are not from me”. We will do the right opposite. Comprehensiveness and tackling inequalities are our priority. We act with an understanding that embraces all these differences when developing policies for this city. We do this by integrating social support with social service and by transforming social policy into a structure that speaks to all units of the municipality.

A Right-Based Approach Instead Of Help

How did the pandemic affect your understanding of social municipality? Apart from the family support package, the mother-baby package and the pending bill, will there be any other help topics?

Especially during the pandemic period, the fact that the wheels in the economy came to a standstill with it many problems. Those who lost their jobs, those who couldn’t earn a living for the family, those who came to the hunger threshold increased. As a municipality, during this period, we took urgent actions and carried out our works in which aid was delivered directly to our citizens, such as Family Support Package, Mother-Baby Package, Pending Bill, Market Cheque, Halk Süt, and we worked incessantly to relieve them a little. In our long-term plans, we develop permanent projects aimed at reducing urban poverty. We call it system graduation.

What is a system graduation? 

Informing our citizens involved in the social support system about their rights, conducting social work work, eventually completing a job and profession, and creating a permanent solution by ensuring that they contribute to production. In order to strengthen the economy, we detect all unjust treatment at home and in the neighborhood through our expert staff. We are developing a system that brings services together for disability, psychological support, women and children and we are ensuring that a healthy data about the sector in which we will take this service is created. The social and Economic Support Program (SEDEP) works to ensure that there are no families remaining under hunger threshold. We are establishing the migration units, one of the biggest problems for Istanbul, and developing new works around a specific strategy. Meanwhile some efforts to create resources for the urgent needs such as food packages, hygiene packages, baby food/diapers, masks for the migrants continued during pandemic. 91 thousand 458 of our martyr children, orphan/orphan children and disabled children were reached within the framework of the Education Support Package, which is one of the election promises of our Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu. 30 thousand students were given scholarships over 8 months within the scope of the Genç Üniversiteli project. Our projects, such as the marriage support package and the Homeless Support Center, which cannot be carried due to the pandemic, will be implemented soon. Another new project is Neighborhood Houses, which will increase participation in social and cultural life and improve neighborhood culture. All these services and projects are also indicators of our understanding of social municipality, which I said at first.

“Resources Should Be Opened to Children, Not to Channels”

Could you give information about Yuvam Istanbul project? What is the proportional contribution of the nurseries to be opened to the total nursery need? How will the nurseries that IBB will open be any different?

In many developed countries, local governments take active responsibility for supporting the development of children and increasing the employment of women. In a metropolis like Istanbul, both district municipalities and the Metropolitan Municipality must initiate mobilization for Early Child Development. There are more than 1.5 million children between 0-6 years old in this city. Today the opportunities we provide, will determine how these children will become adults tomorrow. The period when 85% of a person’s brain development is completed is the first years. I mean, it’s the most critical period in all of our lives. In other words, a very critical opportunity window opens and then closes. Babies don’t expect us to bring them services, their mothers to come out of depression, their fathers to take them to the park or change their diapers, they grow quickly, develop and constantly learn. Therefore, the first years are the periods when the return of investment in a person is the highest. Nobel Prize-winning economist Dr. James Heckman calculated based on research that every $1 investment made during this period had a return of $7-10. According to this calculation, investments made in babies and their caregivers and their families lead to a decrease in health expenditures in the long term, an increase in schooling rate and duration, and a decrease in crime rates.

Research also shows that investments in this period increased women’s employment. It contributes not only to the return of new mothers to employment but also to the increase in women’s employment by directly creating employment in this field through facilities such as nursery or day care centers. It is precisely for this reason that the resources of Istanbul and Turkey should be transferred to children, not Canal’s. That’s what we do!

We are now implementing the first centers of 150 nursery in 150 neighborhoods, which is the most important among the election promises of Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu. We have a goal of reaching 15 thousand children with 150 centers. This means to ensure the participation of 15 thousand women in employment. 15 nurseries have been completed so far. When the pandemic is over, these nurseries which are different districts of Istanbul, will open their doors to our children between 3-6 years old. As IBB, we are carrying out Yuvamız İstanbul project together with Boğaziçi University and the Mother and Child Education Foundation (ACEV). Combining the experiences of these two institutions in the field of education and the social service experience of IBB, these centers will be inspiring with both the building structure and the program to be implemented. The centers to be opened were selected from poor and needy districts and neighborhoods where the public and private sectors were not concentrated. In addition to Yuvamız İstanbul project, we are also implementing a home-visit-based parental guidance program for 0-3 years old kids and their parents. The mothers will start to be supported from the last months of their pregnancy by this program. Of course, these services will not immediately meet the needs of all children in İstanbul. There are many more services that need to be done. However, not all of them can be performed during this period. We will work hard to serve for the children in 961 neighbourhoods in İstanbul We’re not going to say we’ve fulfilled our duty without establishing a nursery in each and every neighborhood.

How do you see the cooperation with civil society? Do you benefit from the experience of civil society in the field of social municipality? 

Non-governmental organizations are the organizations established in accordance with the needs of society, providing direction to society with their knowledge, experience, and vision. For this reason, it is very important for us to develop new projects and improve problematic areas by cooperating with them. There can be no such approach as not including this power that society has accumulated in civil society in the administration of İstanbul. As the IBB administration, we have been working with all our strength from the first day to strengthen relations, ensure information exchange and realize joint works in the new period. From the implementation of the strategic plan to the establishment of the Istanbul City Council, many meeting areas were created, permanent and sustainable institutional mechanisms were established. One of these institutional mechanisms was the Coordination of Non-Governmental Organizations within the Directorate of Public Relations. We carry out all-purpose work to see the current needs of NGOs and to maintain uninterrupted communication with them. We are also aware that civil society has a wide range. It is important to create different participation channels for different non-governmental organizations that include the diversity of Istanbul. For this reason, we continue to come together on different floors. On the other hand, we develop partnership with the Mother Child Education Foundation (ACEV), the Purple Roof Women Shelter Foundation (MOR Çatı), the Turkish Kidney Foundation, the Tohum Autism and on the other hand, we bring fellow countrymen associations together in the workshops to understand different needs and priorities.

I need to say this. The position of NGOs, which are a driving force for the societies in the world, is not yet sufficiently developed in Turkey. Even in recent years, the knowledge and experience of civil society has been pushed out of decision-making and implementation processes. We will benefit from the experience of civil society, and NGOs will benefit from our extensive service network and logistical support. As IBB, we will continue to serve this city by creating structural and permanent solutions to İstanbul’s problems together with NGO’s. For this reason, the doors of IBB are always open to non-governmental organizations.

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