Wednesday 21 May, BRUSSELS – The sustainability of services for Serbia’s most vulnerable groups - especially children with disabilities- is one of the biggest challenges facing the country, says World Vision International. According to the child rights organisation, the funds allocated by the EU to date have supported the provision of strong preventive and responsive mechanisms that have protected children from abuse, exploitation and other forms of violence at community level.
“In order to continue supporting children, especially those with disabilities, to access protective services, the EU must encourage the Government of Serbia to make an exception for social protection services under its new Budget Law,” says World Vision’s EU representative, Marius Wanders.
“Under national cost saving regulations put in place in 2013, locally operated Centres for Social Work cannot hire needed staff, even though local government budgets for these staff and services are in place,” says Mr Wanders. “The national government’s efforts to save money are being paid for by Serbia’s most vulnerable citizens, namely children. The results of a survey carried out by World Vision in six different municipalities indicate that service delivery to these children is impossible to continue at the same levels due to staff-cuts. While some Centres for Social Work have already closed down, a few others continue with staff being unpaid”.
Maja, mother of five-year-old Dina, who has cerebral palsy, explains the impact of the day care closure: “We and other parents alike have to manage the care for children ourselves since the closure. This means we pay for private physical therapy that takes place in the morning, while I work with Dina at home in the afternoon. This situation means additional expenses for us, while at the same time prevents us from working.” A briefing paper on the current crisis in Serbian Social Services developed by World Vision sets out the current situation as follows:
“Serbia’s investments in community services reflect an important response to the needs of its citizens. In the case of children with disabilities, these services prevent institutionalization of Serbia’s most vulnerable children and keep families together, while keeping costs down. If the Serbian government does not make social protection services an exception to the new ban on temporary staff hires within its recent Budget Law, there is a real risk of the increased institutionalization of vulnerable Serbian children. This development will be linked with increased costs, and a backward step in Serbia’s efforts to take care of its children in ways that increase child development, health and well-being. Even worse, without the exception, Serbia places the burden of these cost-saving measures on its most vulnerable children. World Vision calls for this unintended consequence to be remedied immediately and for Serbia’s Government to provide quality and properly resourced services to vulnerable children and their families.”
· For more information or interviews contact AgroInvest FondacijaSrbija, World Vision, + 381 11 397 2828, email@example.com or for the EU, Alexandra Matei, Policy and Communications Officer, World Vision Brussels and EU Representation, +32 (0) 2 274 18 68, Alexandra_Matei@wvi.org
· World Vision is a relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. It works in close to 100 countries in most regions of the world including Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Asia Pacific Region.
· In Serbia, World Vision (through AgroInvest Foundation) has been active in the past few years as a donor of community services for children with disabilities, a supporter of Serbia’s national child rights coalition, and has initiated research to evaluate both government and NGO service delivery for vulnerable children in 15 communities throughout Serbia.