Message by the Director General of Social Security, to mark the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the Department of Social Security
65 years of Social Security in Malta
It was way back in 1956 when we, today’s present staff within the Department were yet to be born, that the Social Security Department was created to administer two laws: the National Assistance Act and the National Insurance Act. The first law established that a person did not have to contribute whilst the second was based on workers’ contributary payments. Initially those who were employed contributed, but after 1965 this legislation was extended also to self-occupied and the unemployed. Thus, more people could be assisted when faced with hardship.
Anyone who has been working within this Department for some years knows that these laws have been amended several times to incorporate new benefits. A very significant step took place in 1987, when the two laws were consolidated into one to create the Social Security Act which nowadays is administered by each officer to issue every benefit, pension, or assistance.
Although the Social Security Department’s main offices are housed within Palazzo Ferreria, a building of considerable historic value which is situated on Republic Street, Valletta’s most prominent road, this was not always the case. The various sections forming this Department were housed in various offices spread around the capital. It was only in the seventies that each section fell under this same roof.
As mentioned, throughout these 65 years, various types of new benefits, pensions and assistance were introduced to reach the population of these islands. One would therefore easily say that we pay benefits prior to a person’s birth as well as up until their demise.
Benefits affect everyone, from the pregnant mother, to children, to persons with disabilities, to those having lost their spouse, to anyone who is sick, injured at their workplace or unemployed, to those caring for someone who has a disability or is sick, someone who is unable to work due to illness and to someone who has worked their whole life and receives a pension. This is all thanks to each officer, in every position within this Department as the commitment by everyone is required so that those who are most in need can receive payment without delays.
It is important to hail those officers who worked within this Department before us, leaving us with a strong framework so that today we can perform our duty properly.
The changes carried out through the years within the Department of Social Security were not only regarding benefits which increased as years went by, but also in how it operated. Prior to the technological era each benefit, pension and assistance would be calculated manually. Today most of this work formerly undertaken by various staff, is done automatically and requires less officers to carry out. Apart from this, the presence of officers within the building has been drastically reduced with the use of present-day technology and the introduction of family-friendly measures whereby many officers especially women, work from within their own homes. This is all being done without any decline in the quality of service given to the public. This is all thanks to all our officers, in every rank and position, who work with competence and devotion: had it not been so, a section of the population would suffer.
Apart from the assessment of applications, even payment methods have undergone radical changes. Whereas payments were first made in cash and later by cheque, today we issue payments directly into the beneficiary’s bank account. This is the safest method to effect a payment to the beneficiary since the chance of losing a cheque or having it stolen no longer exists. We now must get to a point where each beneficiary is paid directly into their bank account, so that as we have ceased issuing cash payments, we shall also no longer issue cheques.
As a Department, Social Security needs to remain committed to offering the most crucial social services according to the requirements of each individual. That way we would be doing as we have always done and provide respite to the vulnerable and those who find themselves in times of hardship.
Director General (Social Security)