At the sitting held on 25 November outside of the National Assembly seat in Krusevac, the members of the Committee on Labour, Social Issues, Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction discussed the development and licencing of new social welfare services in the community, with a special focus on PWD and foster associations.
Committee Chairperson Dr Vesna Rakonjac said that the Law on Social Welfare has established a new social welfare development concept focusing on social welfare services, adding that the Law allows the social welfare service providers to come from the public, private and civil sector.
The Law on Social Welfare introduced the mandatory licencing of professionals and service providers and efficient control mechanisms. Social welfare organizations that provide daily care in the community, family and home placement also require licencing.
Milos Jankovic, acting assistant minister of labour, employment, veteran and social affairs, briefed the Committee members on purpose-specific transfers - a new category instated in 2016, adding that the 2018 budget secures 750 million RSD in said funds i.e. an increase of about 8%. Purpose-specific funds would be transferred to local self-governments and social welfare institutions. In 2016, 122 local self-governments had registered while in 2017, 123 were categorized for the use of purpose-specific funds. In 2016 out of the 122 local self-governments registered 16 requested funds which were neither used nor returned into the budget, 43 used the funds only partially for the purpose specified, while the rest used the funds for the purpose specified, in line with the Law.
Milos Jankovic said that in the period 2013 - end of November 2017, the Ministry has issued 329 social welfare service providers’ licences. Licenced private housing services cost 32,700 RSD a month and beneficiaries whose monthly earnings are lower can still use the housing services with the state paying the difference with funds previously ear-marked for the purpose.
Speaking about item two on the agenda – social cards – analysis, Dr Vesna Rakonjac said that the use of social cards would make it easier for the users to exercise their rights. Creating a network between social welfare centres, the pension and disability fund, national employment office, tax administration and other relevant institutions would pool all the beneficiaries’ personal data starting from the unique master citizen number, earnings and taxes into a single database.
Milos Jankovic went on to inform the Committee members about the current stage of the social card project saying that it should be completed by 2018. The purpose of the project is to allow social welfare providers easier access into a single database to be able to more efficiently provide social welfare beneficiaries with adequate assistance.
The Committee members then spoke about strengthening the ties between the institutions to facilitate their response to incidents of domestic violence. Dr Vesna Rakonjac said that all and any case of abuse, be it psychological, physical, sexual or economic is a criminal offense drawing a prison sentence of up to 40 years and adding that abuse of parental rights is also considered a criminal offense. The Committee Chairperson said that in addition to judiciary bodies, social welfare centres can also intervene in cases of domestic violence, especially if the abused are children. Social welfare centres can appoint temporary carers to an abused child or remove it temporarily from the family when deemed necessary for their protection, even before a court decision, said Dr Rakonjac. She stressed that the police needs to cooperate with social welfare centres in abuse risk assessment i.e. to recognize domestic violence.
Slobodan Ivanovic, President of the Basic Court in Krusevac said that his court has zero tolerance for domestic violence adding that action in practice is possible only if state bodies, police administration, prosecution and social welfare centre are ready to cooperate.
Speaking of the implementation of the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence, 136 motions to extend urgent measures were submitted, 133 were approved, such as the temporary removal from premises or restraining orders, said Slobodan Ivanovic.
Ivan Milenkovic of the Krusevac Police administration who also took part in the sitting said that the appropriate processing of domestic violence cases requires a concentrated effort from all state authorities. Urgent response is the most important role of the police and since the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence came into force on 1 June to date, 500 cases of domestic violence were reported. The new law allows the police to implement two urgent measures it could not before – removal from the premises and restraining orders.
Following a very constructive debate the Committee members and the representatives of relevant institutions concluded that they need to join forces in the implementation of legal measures, pinpoint the weakest links in the chain and fix them.
The Committee sitting outside of the National Assembly seat, in Krusevac, was held with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) via project “Strengthening the Oversight Role and Transparency of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia”.
The sitting was chaired by Committee Deputy Chairperson Dr Vesna Rakonjac and attended by the following Committee members and deputy members: Milanka Jevtovic Vukojicic, Prim. Dr Branimir Rancic, Prim. Dr Vlado Babic, Bojan Torbica, Dragan Savkic, Vesna Nikolic Vukajlovic, Ljupka Mihajlovska, Dr Predrag Jelenkovic, Milena Corilic, Tatjana Macura and Enis Imamovic.
The sitting was also attended by State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs Nenad Neric and Director of the Centre for Independent Living of Persons with Disabilities Gordana Rajkov.