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41st NEWSLETTER  ON SOCIAL INCLUSION AND POVERTY REDUCTION

INTRODUCTION

More Social Justice for a More Effective Economic Recovery of the European Union – Impetus for the Social Dimension of European Integration

Written by: Bojana Ružić, Coordinator for European Integration and International Cooperation, Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia

Should the European Union still worry only about economic growth and competitiveness regarding job creation within the Community? Are member states tackling their own social issues during the period of recovery from the crisis? Should the EU respond to issues faced daily by its citizens, both in the workplace, as well as their private lives?

The arrival of Jean-Claude Juncker at the head of the European Commission in late 2015 started a great debate over these issues, along with the creation of the so-called European Pillar of Social Rights. It would be based on the social foundations of the EU, complementing them so as to guide policies in numerous areas of importance for the good operation and equitability of the labour market and social assistance system in member states. The final phase of this process if now beginning, after the consultations concluded on the last day of 2016, as well as the resolution adopted in the European Parliament on 19 January 2017. Key decision makers at the European Union level and individual states, as well as representatives of unions, employer associations and non-government organizations included in the process since the very beginning, have met in Brussels on 23 January 2017. The main subject of the conference, as a result of several months of consultations with all the above stakeholders, were equitable living and work conditions, greater and better opportunities for youth, better jobs and greater social security, targeted social support as a guarantee that none will be left behind. A united message was sent, stating that European policy must go hand in hand with social progress. The European Commission proposal on the further instrumentalization of the European Pillar of Social Rights is expected in March this year. In this phase, it will represent an obligation for Eurozone countries, but other EU states will also be able to join.

The Employment and Social Policy Reform Programme (ESRP), as part of the European Union accession process, was adopted by the Government of the Republic of Serbia in May 2016. It was developed through multiple rounds of consultations with relevant stakeholders and the adoption of their comments and suggestions. The European Commission also repeatedly commended this document. The activities of the working group of the Government of Serbia for its implementation and monitoring will begin in February, at the time the European Pillar of Social Rights is being defined, thereby making the ESRP more current than ever.

Serbia has already recognized challenges regarding the labour market, the harmonization of knowledge and skills acquired through education with social and economic needs, poverty, child and social protection. An increase in the employment rate, greater participation of women in self-employment programmes, analysis of Government expenses for youth employment, and an increase in the number of social protection services are just some of the improvements made in accordance with the goals of the Programme during the preceding period. However, the lengthy list contains measures such as the adoption of the Law on Social Entrepreneurship, improvement of the quality assurance system for education at all levels, increasing the education level of vulnerable groups, improvements of the system of cooperation between social work centres and other bodies in order to improve the protection of beneficiaries and improve the accessibility of public facilities, still awaiting implementation.

The Employment and Social Policy Reform Programme brings together the goals and programmes of the Government of Serbia, individual ministries and institutions, with the civil and business sector also capable of contributing to its implementation and to improving its focus. Therefore, the Programme represents a key platform on Serbia’s path towards the EU, regarding the issues it covers. Once this document is operationally harmonized with other strategic documents – particularly the Economic Reform Programme and the IPA strategic document, Serbia will be ready to join European social policy and employment policy trends and be a more than equal participant in the European Pillar of Social Rights.

NEWS

ACTIVITIES OF THE SOCIAL INCLUSION UNIT


Public Call for Towns and Municipalities to Apply for the Prizes for Contributions to the Development of All Forms of Accessibility within their Territory in 2016

The Ombudsman, in cooperation with the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, is issuing a public call for awarding prizes to towns, municipalities and city municipalities in the Republic of Serbia that have contributed the most to the development of all forms of accessibility within their territory, and/or their environment in 2016.

Thus, in addition to awarding the above prize, the Ombudsman wishes to promote good practice examples in the field of accessibility at the local level, as well as to achieve better mutual cooperation among towns and municipalities in the Republic of Serbia, in order to establish the situation in the field of accessibility and the reasons why the regulations guaranteeing the right to accessibility of public facilities and services to persons with disabilities and mobility impairments are not being applied in full, as well as to formulate recommendations and plans for improvements within their competence.

The deadline for applications is 28 February 2017. More information and the application form can be found at www.ombudsman.rs


“Mapping of Social Protection Services under the Competence of Local Self-Governments in the Republic of Serbia” Survey Published

The Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia initiated the implementation of the survey “Mapping of Social Protection Services under the Competence of Local Self-Government Units in the Republic of Serbia”, implemented with the support of the Republic Institute for Social Protection and the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities. The survey was implemented by the Centre for Social Policy during the period October 2015-March 2016.

The mapping of social protection services was implemented across 145 local self-government units. All local self-government units, i.e. local service providers, provided data on social protection services for 2015. Based on the methodology used during the survey implemented in 2012, data was collected on social protection services provided in each local self-government unit, their distribution, availability, efficiency and quality.


“Preparations for the European Social Fund: Analysis of Local Self-Government Unit Capacities” Analysis Published

The Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, in cooperation with the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities, prepared the publication “Preparations for the European Social Fund: Analysis of Local Self-Government Unit Capacities”. The analysis aimed to explore the issues of successful use of European Union funds intended for the human resources and social development sector at the local level, as a forerunner of the European Social Fund, to contribute to improving the capacities of local self-government units in this field.

The results of the survey have shown that the local level of authorities in Serbia has certain administrative capacities and experiences in the process of preparing and implementing projects financed from European Union funds. However, the analysis also indicated the necessity for coordinated activities by local self-governments and all relevant institutions at the national level of authority, for the improvement of the capacities of local self-governments for managing European Union funds and their efficient and transparent use at the local level, once Serbia becomes a European Union member state.


Training Held on Gender Sensitive and Affirmative Media Representation of Vulnerable Groups

The Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia organized a training on 8 and 9 December 2016 in Belgrade on gender sensitive and affirmative media representation of vulnerable groups. The training was led by journalists Antonela Riha and Tamara Skrozza, with journalists from ten cities across Serbia exchanging their professional experiences.

This encounter provided for a dialogue on the important role of media in improving gender equality and social inclusion of vulnerable groups, as well as the negative consequences of media reporting not in accordance with the basic ethical principles as defined in the Code of Journalists of Serbia. The training also provided for dialogue between journalists and representatives of citizens’ associations working with and for certain vulnerable groups.

The training inspired journalists to seek out new subjects, and their work during the coming period will contribute to improving gender equality and the social inclusion of vulnerable groups. It was implemented as one of the activities to contribute to the implementation of the Action Plan for Chapter 23, as well as other relevant strategic documents of the Republic of Serbia in the domain of fundamental rights of citizens.

OPEN CALLS

Caritas Serbia: Call for Project Proposals for Civil Society Organizations (Deadline: 22/2/2017)
RAS: Call for the Selection of Best Project Ideas for Regional Development (Deadline: 31/3/2017)
Volunteering Challenge: Open Call for Volunteer Activities (Deadline: 15/10/2017)
You may follow the news on open calls regularly at: socijalnoukljucivanje.gov.rs/en/tenders

READ MORE...

The Law on Housing and Building Maintenance has been Adopted
The Results of the “Citizens’ Attitudes on Discrimination in Serbia” Survey Presented
Praxis Presented Reports on Statelessness, Early, and Forced Marriages
The Tenth Jubilee VIRTUS Philanthropy Award Held
Serbia is the First Country in the Region with the National Corporate Social Responsibility Index
The Winners of the “Brave Steps Forward in New Cultural Practices” Competition Announced
”Speak out – Fight against Violence” Round-Table Held
The Results of the “Roma Entrepreneurship: Challenges and Perspectives” Survey Presented
Corporate Volunteering Awards Presented
KOMS: The Council for Equality and Inclusive Society Established
You may follow the news on social inclusion and poverty reduction regularly at: socijalnoukljucivanje.gov.rs/en/

SOCIAL INCLUSION BLOG

NEOSTART: He Is Our Child, Too

Two weeks ago the NEOSTART helpline received a call from the employees of the Higher Court in Belgrade. They were facing a young man who left the juvenile detention centre in Kruševac that day. At that moment, he had nowhere to sleep, nowhere to eat a meal, no ID card, and no clear idea what to do now. (…)

As a child, he lived in the street. However, since he learned to read and write at the age of four, he was very interesting for people, whom he would approach and easily win their affection. Somehow, he always managed to find something to eat, somewhere to sleep, and spent most of his time in games shops. This is where he learned computer skills, making money by showing others “tricks” for getting through game levels. Not only that, but with 14 years of age he worked in game shops, already earning a decent living. (…) Unfortunately, bad company drew him into the world of crime. Having committed several crimes with a group of juveniles, he found himself afoul of the law. It all ended with him being sent off to a juvenile detention centre. Although an unfortunate episode in his life, looking back at it today, he realizes it may have been the best thing to happen to him.

In the nearly four years he spent there, he completed primary school and learned the electrician’s trade. He completed primary school with straight A’s. Yes, our street urchin had A’s in chemistry, physics, maths, and all those subjects that represent pure torture for students. Not only was he the best student in the school, but also the best student in the workshop. In the workshop he studied the electrician’s trade, successfully passed the test and received an official certificate. People at the centre still say they cannot recall such a student and such a master of the craft. (…)

Due to an omission in the system, he had no personal documents on the day of his release. He wants to work, and earn money to live and have a shelter, but who would employ him without documents? And while we wait for the system to resolve its issues with significant delays and give an identity to this young man, we spread his story further.

Thus, talking to our friends about him, we received a donation from a lady, to enable him to buy electrician’s tools. We were shocked, but she said: “He is our child, too. If we do not support him now, what can we expect from him tomorrow?”

Very quickly we arrived at an electrician’s shop. It was easy for him to list all the items he needed – soldering iron, voltage tester, terminals, wire cutters, multimetre, insulating tape… and a nice toolbox for his first tools. The tools he can use to start working, applying his craft, and earning a living. You cannot imagine how happy and proud he was, at the same time. Happy to receive his tools, and proud of all the knowledge and skill he carries within himself. We were even prouder of him and the people who helped him. (…)

The text in its entirety can be found on the Social Inclusion Blog.

Other texts by our bloggers can be found at: www.socijalnoukljucivanje.gov.rs/blog/

SUCCESS STORY

Someone to Say “Good Day” to the Grandmas and Grandpas of Irig

The municipality of Irig and the local Centre for Social Work are the bearers of the project “Improvement of Social Inclusion”, wherein 13 beneficiaries have significantly improved their quality of life, and 10 unemployed persons were engaged.

The first morning duty at work for Vesna Bjelkić (46), having spent five years on the list of unemployed persons in the National Employment Service, is to say “Good day!” to the grandma Dara Bojčić (82) and her bedbound husband mister Sima. Then she starts the fire in the stove in the somewhat dilapidated, but tidy home of the two elderly Irig residents, who have been bedridden for several years due to age and illness. Then Vesna, educated as an agricultural technician, prepares their breakfast, tidies up the house, and slowly recounts stories from the little town. She is also a resident of Irig – a hilly town in Vojvodina, located on the slopes of Fruška Gora – where the Centre for Social Work, one of the youngest in the Republic (formed in 2011), along with the local self-government, is implementing the project “Improvement of social inclusion of children and adults with disabilities through the introduction of new social services in the municipality of Irig”.

Vesna has been engaged since June 2016, along with seven other colleagues, working as personal assistants to adult persons with disabilities. Assistance for five schoolchildren with development impairments is provided by two personal assistants. (…)

Ivana Nešković is 25 years old, and after acquiring the diploma of preschool teacher and enrolling in specialist studies, she only managed to volunteer for one year in a preschool institution in Novi Sad. She tells us she was a bit afraid of whether she would be able to work as a personal assistant for students with disabilities.

– I was used to working with kids and pre-schoolers, and really, at the beginning, I was a bit scared. However, I became friends with Nemanja really fast. Although the project began near the end of the school year, when he was completing sixth grade, we spent all summer walking, since due to his mobility impairment that is what he missed the most. His parents work, so he spent most of the time in his room or his yard, elaborates Ivana.

With the beginning of the school year, her obligations are to wait for Nemanja fifteen minutes prior to the start of lectures, as he is driven to school by his dad. Then they take a slow walk to school, talk about the previous day, and attend classes. Ivana helps him with turning the pages of his textbooks, with writing. During the big break, she goes to buy him a snack in the nearby bakery, since the school does not have a cafeteria. When the schedule calls for physical education classes, not attended by Nemanja, they sit in an empty classroom, or practice certain lessons with some of the professors. They both simultaneously say that they prefer nice weather, because then they can sit on a bench in the beautiful school yard. (…)

For example, by engaging a personal assistant, the parents of thirteen-year old Nemanja gained additional momentum leading them to take him to an orthopaedic doctor, in order to provide him with adequate footwear. One of the daughters of grandma Dara now does not have to leave her household in another village to care for her parents and, as she says, she sleeps better knowing that someone is visiting her mother and father every day.

More success stories can be found at socijalnoukljucivanje.gov.rs
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Government of the Republic of Serbia
Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit
Vlajkovićeva 10,11070 Beograd, Srbija

E-mail sipru@gov.rs
Phone +381 11 311 4605, +381 11 311 4798, +381 11 213 7915