After temporarily extending the hours of operation at their Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu customer service offices to include the weekend in order to serve an influx of war refugees and other applicants for support, starting Monday, the Social Insurance Board (SKA) is returning to weekday-only hours.
During the month of April, SKA's customer service offices received a total of 1,112 client inquiries regarding pensions and 5,356 inquiries regarding family benefits, according to a press release.
"We opened the doors at our customer service offices in bigger cities on weekends too in April in order to serve both the people of Estonia and arriving war refugees, the payments of support and benefits to which was expanded," said Greete Veesalu, head of the 5th bureau at SKA's Customer Relations Department. While this step initially proved to be warranted, as the month progressed, the board also saw a decreasing number of inquiries coming in on weekends.
"We've likewise been out with our pop-up service points aboard the MS Isabelle and at ther bigger accommodation establishments, for example, to make it more convenient for people being housed there to apply for support," Veesalu said. "When our customer service offices were fielding some 400 inquiries a day in the first few days of April, by now that number has reduced by nearly half. We've made great progress on processing the majority of pension applications and family benefits, due to which we'll be able to manage serving both the people of Estonia as well as war refugees on weekdays going forward."
Should SKA see significant increases in inquiries again, it is prepared to temporarily revert back to offering weekend services again as well, she added.
Last month, SKA processed 4,229 family benefits applications, 692 pension applications and 23 disability applications, with another 452, 182 and 51 received applications, respectively, still to be processed. These numbers reflect applications from both war refugees and from Estonian residents.
The board typically receives nearly three times fewer inquiries each month.
As of May 1, more than 34,500 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Estonia, the majority of whom are mothers, children and elderly people eligible for support paid by SKA once their temporary residence permits are approved.
War refugees who have received temporary residence permits have the right to receive parental benefits at the minimum rate, family benefits, pension support to make up the difference between one's Ukrainian pension and Estonia's national pension, if their Ukrainian pension is lower, as well as disability benefits. Benefits payments are concluded if and when the recipient refugee leaves Estonia.
Editor: Aili Vahtla