The Kingdom has sought to provide its citizens with social welfare on a basis of equality. The provisions of Articles (21), (22) and (27) of the Basic Law of Governance promote and protect this right. The Kingdom has always been keen to promote this aspect, and accordingly the first Social Security Law was promulgated by Royal Decree No. (19), dated 18/03/1382H, corresponding to 18/08/1962. It was followed by a new Social Security Law, promulgated by Royal Decree No. (M/45) dated 07/07/1427H, corresponding to 01/08/12006, in order to keep pace with economic and social changes. By providing social welfare, the State seeks to ensure the participation of all members of the Saudi society in sustainable development programs through transforming the beneficiaries of welfare from recipients of assistance into a productive and self-reliant group by means of production schemes. Additionally, assistance in cash and in kind is offered to persons of low incomes. A monthly allowance is paid to social security beneficiaries, including orphans, invalids, elderly people, women with no provider (divorcees, widows, widows with orphaned children, spinsters), families with a breadwinner whose whereabouts are unknown, families with no breadwinner and other segments who do not meet the conditions for Saudi citizenship, namely:
- Families consisting of a Saudi mother and non-Saudi father, a foreign woman married to a Saudi man or a foreign widow of a Saudi man with whom she has children;
- Holders of mobility cards over the age of 18 who are medically attested to be physically or mentally handicapped or to have a sensory disability; and orphans and widows with orphaned children.
The State, represented by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, offers a wide range of programs to assist needy people to help themselves to make a decent life and meet their own basic needs and those of their families. These programs are as follows:
- Lump-sum assistance program: a program designed to raise the social and economic situation of beneficiaries;
- Supplementary assistance program: it is among the system of support programs serving young people with low incomes aged between 18 and 35;
- Cash assistance program for school bags and uniform: a program designed to help families on welfare provide their children with school uniforms and other essentials. Assistance used to be provided in kind, with schoolbags and school uniforms distributed to families on welfare but, since the beginning of 1431-1432H and at the request of families, cash has been distributed to allow families to buy their children's school essentials themselves. The program, which covers students in general education, has thus turned into a cash deposit scheme whereby an amount (SR 240 per annum) is deposited directly in beneficiary accounts;
- Partial payment of electricity bills program: a program run in collaboration with the Electricity and Cogeneration Regulatory Authority, designed to relieve financial burdens on persons on welfare and ensure that their homes continue to be supplied with electricity. Under the program, a part of the recipient's electricity bill is paid; the amount paid depends on the number of family members registered with the social security office and on the region (regions are divided into three: cool, moderate and hot).
- Cash assistance for food program: a program run in collaboration with the Statistics and Information Authority; it is designed to relieve financial burdens on persons on welfare and help them provide food to their families and meet household needs by depositing an amount of money, based on the number of family members, on the tenth day of each Hijri month;
- Health insurance program: it is among the health insurance support programs for groups entitled to social security; the program has been referred to the Health Services Council for study and a decision is awaited;
- Productive projects program: a program designed to transform families on welfare who are able to work and be productive from welfare dependency into productive households able to work and produce, by providing them with training and financial support to increase the income of welfare beneficiaries;
- Assessment and academic achievement test fee payment program: a program designed to relieve the financial burden of families on welfare by exempting them from paying their children's educational assessment and achievement test fees; the program covers students in the second and third years of secondary school, aged between 17 and 26.
As regards orphan children, a special department was established by Ministerial Decision No. (19583), dated 22/06/1422H, corresponding to 10/09/2001, to process applications to foster children of unknown parentage, with the aim of giving them a home. The Ministry of Labor and Social Development sponsors a large number of institutions providing care for juvenile boys and girls. It also provides care for the elderly through 20 institutions throughout the Kingdom.
With regard to the rights of persons with disabilities, several legislative and procedural measures have been taken to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, including the issuance of the Disability Law and the Kingdom's becoming a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol in 2008. Furthermore, the Kingdom has signed up to the Arab Decade for Persons with Special Needs, affirming the importance of including special needs issues as an integral part of sustainable development strategies. A number of societies concerned with the rights of persons with disabilities have been established, including the Disabled Children's Association, King Salman Center for Disability Research and others. There are also (26) rehabilitation centers and two institutions devoted to caring for children with polio. Licenses have been granted to 16 non-governmental centers caring for persons with special needs.
Royal Decree No. (M/37), dated 23/09/1421H, corresponding to 19/12/2000, was issued to give the Ministry of Labor and Social Development responsibility for coordinating medical, social, pedagogical, psychological and vocational services to help persons with special needs adapt to society by establishing centers for accommodating the severely disabled, as well as other centers to rehabilitate and employ the disabled and provide prosthetic devices.
With regard to care homes, they receive elderly people of both sexes who are unable to work or look after themselves or patients who have reached the age of 60 and suffer from a physical or mental handicap that has left them unable to work or look after themselves, provided they are free of infectious diseases and have no living relatives who might care for them. These homes are designed to look and feel as close as possible to normal family life, where the elderly can enjoy a degree of independence and feel safe and secure. They provide full board and lodging, as well as social, medical and psychological care, physiotherapy and programs of personal hygiene. Residents can also practice some handicrafts and artistic works to spend their leisure time. Furthermore, residents may take part in suitable religious, cultural and leisure activities. Other programs including regular weekly visits, trips and excursions are organized for those who are able to take part in order to keep them in contact with the outside world and banish any feelings of isolation. Each resident receives a monthly allowance. There are currently ten old age homes for men and women across the Kingdom.