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In search of a model

For four years now, the Institute of Special Studies (IEE), of PUC/SP, has been giving advice to the City Hall of Santo André, in the ABCD (The Industrial Suburbs around São Paulo), on the implanting of the municipal program of Minimum Income (PRM) – right from the discussion of the law that created it, until its execution. During this period, however, they came up with an important obstacle. “The instruments of management of policies linked to social assistance are still infant ” explains Mariangela Belfiore Wanderley, the director of the IEE.

What is the solution? To look for adequate tools of evaluation and follow up. It was with this objective that the Institute devised a research project which, coordinated by Mariangela herself, has the support of FAPESP and is being developed in partnership with the municipality's Secretary of Citizenship and Social Action.

The Minimum Income Program of Santo André – part of an initiative that the town named as the Social Inclusion Program – financially helps families with incomes of up to half a minimum salary per capita/month and with children of up to 14 years of age who should be at school. During the period of help (from six to eighteen months) they are visited by staff from the city hall and stimulated to join other municipal social programs: reading and writing program, school follow up for their children, guidance for cooperative work, professional training, etc.

The idea is that the families gain autonomy by the end of the assistance period – and, to check up on how they are running their lives, the project foresees accompanying them, through sampling over the following two years. The Santo André city hall calculates that there are 8,000 poor families who can fit into the minimum income program. Up until now they are attending to around 10% of them, but, over the next four years, they expect to arrive at 6,000 families.

“The bringing together of the social with the technological part will make possible the design of software capable of providing data, and will facilitate the day to day monitoring of the program. It will be a useful instrument for the city's technical staff and could be used in other social programs and even by other prefectures in similar situations”, says Mariangela. The project, which began in November of 1999, should be concluded by October of 2002.

Among the activities that have already been developed are the formation of the research teams; the identification of sources and entities who have already worked in this field (for example, the town administrations of Porto Alegre, Campinas and Belo Horizonte) to exchange experiences; workshops and seminars involving the researchers, technicians and community agencies, those who have used the Minimum Income Program and the public in general; the follow up and collection of data on social insertion of the familiesremoved from the MI program during 2000, belonging initially to the shantytowns of Sacadura Cabral and Tamarucara.

“This project will qualify local working staff so that they can develop a permanent investigative attitude and will help to clear up a large difficulty of the cities which is the managing and computerization of data on social policies”, says Mariangela. “In this manner, the social programs will no longer suffer interruption with each new change of political administration.”