Education & Training

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Roundtable Access to Social Welfare and Health Protection for Vulnerable Groups in the South of Serbia – Conclusions and Recommendations

As part of the project Access to Social Welfare and Health Protection for Vulnerable Groups in the South of Serbia - Phase II, which was implemented by Praxis with the support of the Foundation Caritas Luxembourg in the period 1 November 2013 – 30 April 2014, on 10 April 2014 a roundtable was organised in Vranje for representatives of institutions and civil society in Pčinja District. The roundtable was attended by representatives of the Social Welfare Centres of Pčinja District and the Centre for the Development of Local Social Welfare Services of the City of Vranje, representatives of the Police Administration, Vranje City administration and the Office for Roma National Minority, the Trustee Office for Refugees and Displaced Persons, as well as numerous representatives of civil society (NGO Nexus Vranje, Association Bakija Bakić Vranje, Association Rom Vladičin Han, Roma Association KHAM, NGO OFER Bujanovac and Roma Cultural Centre Vranjska banja).

This meeting was preceded by a series of activities aimed at improving the system of social welfare and health care and, therefore, improving as much as possible the situation of vulnerable social groups, Roma and internally displaced persons, related to access to socio-economic rights. The achievement of the specified goal has been facilitated by providing information and counselling on the content and scope of the rights of target groups, but also on the mechanisms for their protection, through networking and strengthening cooperation among the relevant service providers at the local level and their further sensitisation with respect to the sensitive needs of certain categories of citizens, through the monitoring of normative regulations and administrative practices and advocacy for the elimination of obstacles to the exercise of the rights and insisting on the introduction of efficient and sustainable solutions.

Since a clear awareness of the consequences of the absence of intervention by competent institutions in the situations of social needs of citizens was expressed during the meeting, local community representatives who participated at the meeting actively contributed to the formulation of joint recommendations identifying the key obstacles concerning access to socio-economic rights and proposals for overcoming these obstacles.

RECOMMENDATIONS to overcome the problems and establish an effective system for exercising and protecting rights:

  • Providing affirmative measures to recognise the special status and needs of vulnerable groups, and ensuring their equal treatment and equal opportunities in accessing rights.
  • Adopting the remaining by-laws envisaged under the Law on Social Protection to ensure the full implementation of the Law, in particular a by-law that will regulate the establishment of a binding cooperation of all stakeholders responsible for supporting vulnerable groups.
  • Adopting a local action plan or plans that will provide ways and means for the development of social welfare and health care services and intersectoral cooperation of local institutions.
  • Revising the concept of means test in exercising the right to financial social assistance in order to align the implementation of these restrictions with the changed situation in the labour and capital market, especially in light of the consequences of the current economic crisis.
  • Amending the regulations in a way to specify clear criteria for determining the possibility of missed earnings in exercising the right to financial social assistance, in order to prevent arbitrariness in decision making and align the regulations with the actual possibilities and needs of citizens.
  • Amending the Law on Social Protection by deleting Article 84, which stipulates that the submission of claims for subsistence against relatives is a condition for exercising the right to financial social assistance, considering the effects that the mandatory litigation envisaged under this Article have produced in practice.
  • Simplifying the complicated administrative procedure in exercising the right to social assistance, thus allowing the most vulnerable citizens to access the rights on which their survival most often depends.
  • Ensuring consistent application of the Law on Permanent and Temporary Residence of Citizens in terms of permanent residence registration at the address of social work centres because the exercise of the right to health care and social protection directly depends on this possibility, especially in case of the Roma living in informal settlements.
  • Improving coordination of different service providers at the local level, for example Social Welfare Centres and the National Employment Service, in order to use all work engagement opportunities, thus providing an opportunity for social inclusion to a person in social need.
  • Ensuring the capacity of institutions to adequately address the existing needs by securing resources from funds and donations for the purpose of improving the situation of vulnerable groups.
  • Making the conditions for exercising the right to social welfare and health care sufficiently transparent and clear for all categories of citizens.
  • Intensifying cooperation between all stakeholders at the local level, both among themselves and with civil society organisations, in order to improve access to rights.
  • Making the role of Social Welfare Centres more efficient in exercising the rights to social protection in the case of families with minors who are not in the care of parents but other persons who are not formally the guardians of these children, with regard to the obligation of the guardianship authority to initiate procedures to determine guardianship and participate in them.
  • Respecting the legal deadlines for bringing decisions (first and second instance) on the recognition of the right to social assistance, to make it meaningful, especially in case of one-off assistance.
  • Conducting training for employees of institutions in order to improve the quality of services provided and further sensitisation to the needs and situation of beneficiaries.
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Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action