Social protection and social benefits

The prohibition of discrimination protects one against any discrimination in the provision of social protection or social benefits. This prohibition applies equally to benefits or social services provided by the state, municipality or private providers.

important Social benefits and social assistance are usually only provided to certain groups of people and are designed to maintain or improve the welfare of that specific target group. Targeted social protection given to persons belonging to a specific group, such as retirement pensions which are provided only to people of a certain age, or disability benefits that are only given to people with a disability, will not be considered discriminatory. The prohibition of discrimination prohibits unequal treatment within the target group of a specific type of social assistance.

Scope of protection

Social protection and social benefits include financial or material support or other services that help people to enjoy their social rights as fully as possible. Discrimination is prohibited in the provision of social benefits or services, regardless of whether they are provided by the state, a municipality or private entities.

Discrimination in relation to social protection and social benefits is forbidden in all aspects of their provision, including the provision of social benefits and services, the quality of services provided and your treatment while you are receiving them. 

[example] One of your parents of Roma origin is in a social care institution and you notice that his/her room is always dirty and their clothes are not clean. If you notice that other residents who are not Roma are receiving better treatment, this may indicate that your parent may be being discriminated against on the grounds of ethnic origin.

In Latvia, discrimination on the grounds of sex or gender, race or ethnic origin, religion or belief, age, disability and other grounds is explicitly prohibited in the provision of social protection and social benefits. Latvian law  explicitly prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex or gender or race or ethnic origin in relation to unemployed persons and persons seeking employment.

Exceptions

In some situations, differential treatment may be allowed with regard to third country nationals, who are not EU nationals. For example, some services and benefits may not be accessible to them. However, such exceptions should be established by law, be necessary and proportionate, and should not lead to discrimination on other grounds, such as race or ethnic origin.

What human rights violation may there be?

The prohibition of discrimination will be violated if you have been denied a specific kind of social assistance that you are entitled to under the law solely because you belong to a certain ethnic group, race, religion or possess some other characteristic that is recognized as a prohibited ground.   

In such a situation your right to social security may also have been violated.

example The denial of social benefits by a local government to a Syrian who has obtained refugee status, may be a violation of the principle of non-discrimination and, simultaneously, a violation of the right to social security.

How to complain

If you believe that you are entitled to social assistance or social benefits according to the law, but they have been refused to you or provided in poor quality on discriminatory grounds, the complaint mechanism will depend on the institution in charge. Depending on the institution which provides the social assistance or grants the particular benefit, you may submit a complaint to its supervisory body, i.e., a higher institution, and afterwards, to the Administrative Court. Read more about how to complain.

Resources

Last updated 18/03/2018