The Office of Social Services is responsible for the welfare system in Liechtenstein. Its main tasks are providing advice to those seeking help, protecting child welfare, distributing benefits and advising the government.
The welfare system in Liechtenstein was traditionally private and run by the church, with the state providing only basic services. However, the introduction of social security in the mid-1950s relieved the church of many of its duties. The welfare system became a safety net for all citizens who, for whatever reason, were unable or only partially able to earn a living.
However, there were earlier efforts by the state to provide welfare support. In 1836 an office for orphans was created; in 1845 a commission for the poor and a national poverty fund were introduced. According to the Municipalities Act of 1864 and the Poverty Act of 1869, welfare was the responsibility of the relatives, followed by the community. The situation improved with the introduction of poorhouses in 1870. In the 1921 constitution responsibility for welfare was transferred from the municipalities to the state. In 1931 provisions were introduced on welfare for the unemployed, tuberculosis sufferers, infants, the sick and the elderly. In 1932 provisions, financed using a range of funds, were created concerning youth welfare and mental healthcare.
Through these provisions each aspect of welfare was covered in one way or another. However, the Social Assistance Act of 1965 introduced coordination and a fundamental modernisation of the welfare system. This law created a legal right to assistance, and responsibility for welfare issues was moved from a person's "place of origin" ("Bürgerort") to their place of residence. In 1966 parliament created the Welfare Office, today known as the Office of Social Services. This authority is responsible for coordinating state welfare services. It is supplemented by a range of initiatives, most of which are financed by the state. These include the remedial health centre, family assistance, the women's refuge and the women's information centre (INFRA). Welfare costs are divided 50/50 between the state and the municipalities.