Despite the UAE’s economic success there are, inevitably, individuals who are not in a position to benefit directly from the country’s good fortune. Therefore, a social welfare network has been put in place to assist these vulnerable members of society. This takes the form of social security benefits administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, in addition to the practical help offered by the network of Ministry-supported social centres run by the General Women’s Union, and the government-supported social welfare and rehabilitation centres providing assistance to the disabled.
The Government dispenses financial assistance each month to 20 categories of persons, including persons with disabilities, widows and divorcees. The programme benefits 40,121 families. A total of 4,882 children, 862 of whom are orphans, receive assistance, in addition to 3,697 children with disabilities and 323 children of unknown parentage. As of 2012, the amount disbursed to these families was increased to Dh7.14 billion.
Social welfare assistance is also provided to as many as 14,075 older people, representing 37 per cent of the toal number of older people in the country.
UAE citizens are eligible for free or subsidised housing since access to modern comfortable housing is considered to be the right of every citizen.
The UAE has three types of housing programmes: the first provides home loans and grants to nationals who own a piece of land, itself granted by the state. The second advances interest-free, long-term loans for nationals who can repay them. The third provides free housing for low-income nationals.
The Ministry of Public Works has been implementing a national housing programme since 2007. The Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme, which was established in 1999 with capital of Dh640 million a year, was set up to fund housing projects for nationals with low incomes by providing interest-free loans repayable over a 25-year period. Federal Act No. 10 of 2009 regulates the functioning of the Programme. Grants and non-reimbursable assistance are dispensed to the poorest segments of society. The Federal Government doubled the programme budget in 2010, taking it up to Dh1.8 billion to enable it to expand its activities. A total of 13,000 homes have been delivered and 14,000 are under construction. As of September 2011, the number of beneficiaries exceeded 48,000. In July 2012 alone, 423 persons registed for housing assistance.
Emirate-specific and private organisations also provide housing assistance. Abu Dhabi Government has embraced a modern vision of public housing and a total of 7,500 integrated units have been built in Abu Dhabi, at a cost of Dh33 billion. In 2009, Abu Dhabi Town Planning Council announced plans to construct 1,200 popular housing units in various towns in the western region.
Since its inception in 2006, the Mohammed bin Rashid Housing Foundation has done much to help citizens to access decent housing in Dubai by providing housing loans or buying turnkey homes.
The Sheikh Saoud Housing Programme was launched in 2008 to meet the housing needs of citizens in Emirate of Ra's al-Khaimah.
More recently, housing was accorded particular attention in the initiatives taken by President Sheikh Khalifa to mark the fortieth anniversary of the establishment of the Federation. In 2012, the committee responsible for following up on these initiatives was taking steps to speed up the work on the construction of 1,538 villas in a number of emirates.