Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Action Plan For Social Welfare System Reform To Be Presented Soon

ZAGREB, 21 April, 2021 - Labour and Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović said on Wednesday that intensive talks had been underway with all stakeholders in the social welfare system, noting that the system was ready for a reform.

He said that an action plan for a broad reform was being prepared and that it would be presented in the next few days.

However, certain challenges have accumulated in the system for a long period of time so its reform will also take time and require quality engagement of all stakeholders, he said.

The action plan is comprehensive and detailed, the minister said, adding that no group of beneficiaries or employees would be left out.

"We want a solid and implementable document," he said, adding that the reform would focus on the beneficiaries of the social welfare system as well as deal with the problem of a shortage of social workers and excessive workload. 

An analysis has been made on the shortage of staff in all 83 social welfare centres in the country, he said, adding that the hiring of new staff would start soon.

The action plan also aims to facilitate the process of adoption and putting a child in a foster family, he said.

Commenting on a half-an-hour protest of social workers held earlier in the day, Aladrović said that it was their right and that he did not want to question it.

"But what we expect is the continuation of good cooperation with representatives from the entire system of social care," he said, expressing confidence that with joint work and implementation of the action plan the system could be improved to the benefit of its users.

 For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Action Plan to Restructure, Improve Social Welfare System Announced

ZAGREB, 6 April, 2021 - The founder of the #Spasime (Save me) initiative, Jelena Veljača, said on Tuesday it was agreed at today's meeting with Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović that an action plan to restructure and improve the system should be urgently adopted.

Speaking to the press after the meeting, Veljača said she was sorry if she had contributed to a campaign against social workers with a recent statement which she said "was prompted by the outcome of the monstrous event in Nova Gradiška."

In a recent Facebook post, she pushed for sacking and revoking the licences of the whole "expert" team from the social welfare centre in Nova Gradiška and establishing if they were criminally accountable for the death of a girl of two and a half who had been severely beaten by her mother.

Veljača said today "we must not ignore problems" and that this case "is not an incident," adding that the initiative had wanted to warn about problematic cases that did not end in death.

She said she was pleased that the initiative had been in dialogue with Minister Aladrović since November and that he had shown the political will and personal desire to improve the social welfare system.

She said child rights must come first, before parental rights. "We agreed that the ministry should draft an action plan to improve the system."

Veljača said decisions must be made within the system and that she hoped someone would be held to account for this "absolutely unnecessary death and that no one will hide behind the system."

#Spasime representatives said it was agreed with Justice Ministry officials that a register of domestic abuse cases should be made that would give access to everyone dealing with the problem - social services, courts and prosecutors.

Last week Aladrović's ministry instructed directors of social welfare centres that in cases of domestic violence, professionals must apply the Istanbul Convention and violence protocols. This means that in evaluating parental competence, a parent's history of violence is taken as an aggravating circumstance and that a child's interest must come before that of parents.

At today's meeting it was also agreed that oversight of social services' actions should be conducted regularly.

Vedrana Šimundža-Nikolić of the Justice Ministry said it was agreed to define as a separate crime when an official, through inaction or wrong action, failed to protect a child's rights and this had consequences

"The law already envisages punishing someone who does not execute a decision to protect a child's well-being and rights, but in (the Nova Gradiška case) we don't have failure to execute a decision, but to make it. That would be prosecuted as a separate crime."

The head of the Family and Social Policy Administration, Marija Barilić, said the Family and Social Policy Ministry had begun making analyses of children in foster care and care homes "so that we can see their situation, if they should stay in the system."

Minister Aladrović said the ministry was very determined to change the system and that he was confident the system could be improved through the joint efforts of everyone in society.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Josip Aladrović: "Law Will Be Changed to Facilitate Foster Care"

ZAGREB, 6 April, 2021 - The Minister of Family and Social Policy, Josip Aladrović, on Tuesday announced amendments to the Foster Care Act to facilitate foster care for children.

The minister made the announcement after meeting with representatives of the "We Have Something to Tell You" initiative Marta Divjak and Antonija Skender. Divjak and Skender were also received by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

Aladrović said that the two representatives presented a good initiative to address several key issues to relax adoption and foster care procedures.

Aladrović said that the duration of adoption or foster care cases showed how difficult it was to adopt or foster a child in Croatia. He said that he would initiate amendments to the 2019 Foster Care Act to promote deinstitutionalisation and make it easier for children staying in care homes to be taken into foster care.

As for the adoption of children by same-sex couples, Aladrović said that this issue would be put to public consultation. "The child's interest comes first and that's how it will be with the social care system."

Aladrović said that the meeting also focused on possible legislative and procedural changes concerning the social care system, as well as future cooperation on legislative amendments and ideas.

Divjak said that she herself had been adopted and her colleague Skender had been raised in a foster family. They had launched this initiative to raise public awareness of problems faced by fostered and adopted children.

Divjak said that they raised nine issues and that Prime Minister Plenković said that Minister Aladrović would take a position on them within the next three weeks. Among the issues raised, she cited the need to speed up the adoption procedure, establish a family court to deal with the interests of children, and promote foster care.

"We are leaving this meeting with a lot of expectations and hope that this will be the first government that will manage to fully reform the social care system," Skender said. 

Speaking of the case of a two-and-a-half-year-old girl from Nova Gradiška who had died from severe head and bodily injuries inflicted by her mother, Skender said that they could not speculate what had gone wrong because they did not have the information on the criteria the biological family had to fulfil.

"It is certainly not encouraging to take a child from a foster family in which it feels good and send it back to the medium-risk biological family," she added.

Aladrović condemned the graffiti on the wall of the Social Welfare Centre in Nova Gradiška calling social workers "murderers". He said that such calls for a lynching were inappropriate and would not help improve the system.

"The system needs reforming, but reforms will not happen by lynching and violence. Reforms will not be successful unless all social stakeholders are satisfied," the minister said.

The adoption support organisation Adopta issued a statement on Tuesday emphasising the need for a comprehensive reform of the social care system that would include regular annual reports on its work, civil oversight and amending the 2015 Family Act.

"Croatia needs a comprehensive reform of the system so that any child without adequate family care can get maximum government support in seeking a family," Adopta said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Croatian Social Workers Association Head: Where is Minister's Responsibility?

ZAGREB, 6 April, 2021 - The president of the Croatian Association of Social Workers, Štefica Karačić, asked on Monday where the responsibility of Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović was in the case of the deceased two-and-a-half-year-old girl from Nova Gradiška.

The (local welfare centre's) director was dismissed and then, in a week, it was forgotten that the centre needs other forms of help and support to work in such a complex and difficult area of activity as child protection, Karačić told the Nova TV commercial broadcaster, and she asked why the minister wouldn't also be removed, if the responsibility was hierarchical.

She told Nova TV that the minister had made the same move as the previous one, so "by dismissing the director, he thinks that he has solved all his problems in the social welfare system".

Asked what has changed in the social welfare system after several difficult cases -- of a father who threw four children from the balcony of his house on Pag island and of a beneficiary who killed two of her colleagues in Đakovo, Karačić said that nothing had changed.

"Nothing has changed, the voice of various activists who have an easier and simpler access to policy makers than experts can be heard. We are always under suspicion, we are always the ones responsible. If the director is responsible hierarchically, then I wonder -- where is the minister's responsibility," Karačić asked.

She suggested that before meeting Jelena Veljača and her colleagues from the #spasi me (Save Me) initiative tomorrow, Minister Aladrović should have a look at what she had posted on her profile regarding the social welfare system and that he keep in mind that he is also a part of that system.

Asked whether an inspection has found any irregularities in the work of the centre in Nova Gradiška, she said that she and a colleague had been in the Centre for Social Welfare in Nova Gradiška on Friday and that they had not completed the inspection yet.

"Our preliminary inspection... does not indicate there were gross omissions in the work of the centre. However, I cannot say there weren't any until the procedure is completed," she noted.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Procedure Launched to Donate Deceased Child's Organs, Minister Offers Condolences

ZAGREB, 5 April, 2021 - Health Minister Vili Beroš confirmed on Sunday evening that the procedure had been launched to donate the organs of a two-and-a-half-year-old girl from Nova Gradiška, who died on Sunday in a Zagreb hospital of injuries inflicted by her mother, expressing condolences to all who loved her.

"I express my condolences and great sadness over the death of the little girl. Despite all the treatments undertaken and doctors' exceptional efforts, her condition deteriorated critically and brain death was confirmed," Beroš said.

He extended condolences to the child's foster family and others who loved her and did their best for her to find a safe place to live.

"Unfortunately, she did not live to see that happen and the worst possible thing happened, for which those responsible should answer," said the minister.

The child, who died due to injuries inflicted by her mother, was in a foster family for over a year, but was returned to her parents at their request.

The parents, who have three other children, have been remanded in custody.

The mother is charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm resulting in the child's death, while the father is charged with violating the child's rights and neglecting and abusing all four of their children.

Earlier in the day, Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović offered condolences on the little girl's death. "May she rest in peace. May it never happen again!" he said in a Twitter post.

Citizens, who earlier on Sunday were leaving messages of support for the child outside the Zagreb hospital for children's diseases, gathered in the evening to light candles after the news broke that she had died.


Monday, 5 April 2021

Foster Parents' Association Demands Meeting With Social Policy Minister

ZAGREB, 5 April, 2021 - The foster parents' association "Život s osmijehom" (Life with a smile) from Karlovac on Monday called on Labour and Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović to hold a meeting with foster parents, stop avoiding them and listen to what they have to say.

The association sent the minister an open letter prompted by the death of a 2.5-year-old girl from Nova Gradiška, who died in a Zagreb hospital on Sunday due to injuries caused by her mother.

Foster parent Marina Novaković Matanić from the Karlovac association said the latest tragedy showed that it was entirely wrong to believe that the worst biological family was better than no family, calling on the minister to do something in cooperation with foster parents' associations to prevent similar tragedies from happening again.

The "Život s osmijehom" association is a member of the umbrella foster care association "Forum za kvalitetno udomiteljstvo" (Forum for Quality Foster Care).

Novaković Matanić said that two weeks ago Forum representatives got an appointment with the minister after trying to meet with him for a year, but when they showed up for the meeting, they were received by a state secretary.

"In the past two and a half years the former minister met with us for 15 minutes while her successor could not spare even 15 minutes," said Novaković Matanić.

Foster families often care for children who come from families with a criminal past, and they have suggestions but nobody in the social protection system hears those suggestions, she said.

Foster parents demand that parents' meetings with children not take place in foster families because "that puts at risk other foster children," she said.

The opinion of foster parents in mandatory reports that are submitted to social welfare centres is disregarded, Novaković Matanić said, adding that the number of foster parents was falling not because of finances but because they had been left to their own devices for years.

She recalled that foster families have a duty to submit a report every six months on the state of the foster child but that when a case ends up in court, those reports and foster parents' opinions are not taken into account.

To read more news from Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 2 April 2021

HRK 6.7m Welfare, Development Project Agreements Handed Over

ZAGREB, 2 April, 2021 - Two grant agreements worth HRK 6.7 million were handed over in Petrinja on Friday for projects by the local development agency PETRA and the Red Cross office in Sisak.

Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović said that the first agreement was financed with EU funds in the amount of HRK 2.5 million and was intended for the establishment of a centre for social entrepreneurship in Petrinja.

The other grant agreement, worth close to HRK 4.2 million, is intended to help alleviate poverty in the region of Banovina and northern Croatia, through donations of food and/or basic material assistance.

Attending the ceremony at which the grant agreements were handed over were also War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved, who heads the task force dealing with the aftermath of the 29 December earthquake in Sisak-Moslavina County, and local officials.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 2 April 2021

Labour Minister Josip Aladrovic: Economic Measures Can't Last Forever

April the 2nd, 2021 - Croatian Labour Minister Josip Aladrovic has spoken out publicly about the continued government efforts to help companies keep their heads above water as the coronavirus pandemic rages on. This state aid includes economic help and so-called job preservation measures. Aladrovic stated that they can't simply go on forever.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Labour Minister Josip Aladrovic was a recent guest on Dnevnik N1, where he spoke about the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and what it means for the country as the pandemic continues.

To begin with, he said the plan envisions 54 percent of the funds going to the domestic economy.

"This is the segment in which we expect the most job creation and the highest quality jobs, and that means that most investments will go to the real sector. 100,000 seems ambitious, but it's also realistic. I must mention that in the last four years, we've created a little less than 110,000 jobs,'' he said and added:

"At the end of the term, we only had 110,000 more jobs than we did at the beginning of the term, so these numbers we want to compare stand at 100,000 more than today, and I'm sure we'llsucceed and we want to reach 70% employment."

New workplaces

"It's up to the state to create the preconditions for jobs to be created. We have several chapters here that show where these investments will be directed. The economy will use these funds to create new jobs. We hope that it will be in industries that are more advanced, that are more technologically aware and of course that these will be jobs that will create more added value. In other areas as well, we've allocated more than a billion kuna precisely in the aspect of the green and digital sectors, where we expect not only to generate 100,000 new jobs but we expect them to better quality jobs,'' noted Labour Minister Josip Aladrovic.

He also explained that they have another month to better set goals, after which the approval of the European Commission (EC) is to be awaited, and after which the implementation of the plan will actually concretely begin.

Reform salaries by the end of the term

Labour Minister Josip Aladrovic also referred to the reform of salaries in the state and public sector.

"The salary reform in the state and public administration is something we've been talking about for a long time now. Last year, which was entirely marked by the pandemic, wasn't the one in which we tackled that reform, but we applied for funding so we could implement that reform and listed it as a priority and a goal.

We'll certainly implement the salary reform in both the state and public administration in two to three years. We've committed ourselves to implement this within these deadlines. It is important to state that a significant aspect of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan are these goals. It's important that these reforms are implemented in parallel with investments. I'm sure that this mix of reforms and investments will be positive for us," he said.

Government measures and state aid cannot be infinite

Aladrovic also said that higher expenditures from salaries for healthcare weren't a topic of conversation. "What the healthcare system is facing is an increase in costs in the middle of a pandemic, but also a multi-year accumulation of liabilities. I must mention that, as far as I know, the increase in contributions wasn't a topic,'' he said.

He also said that government aid measures cannot last indefinitely.

"That isn't going to simply be infinite and we're all aware that can't be the case, given that part of the funds are financed from the state budget. Now we have a challenging epidemiological situation, I want to emphasise that while there are problems in the economy, and when certain segments can't operate at their pre-pandemic levels, we're going to be here to help, but it simply isn't possible for this sort of help to last indefinitely," he warned.

"Our first projections were that we would need help for January or February, now we're already in April, I'm sure that in the second part of April we'll see what the epidemiological and economic situation is and determine possible help for May accordingly. As long as there is a need, we'll do everything to help out workers and employers as much as possible,'' Labour Minister Josip Aladrovic concluded.

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Thursday, 18 March 2021

Government Moves to Amend Volunteering Act

ZAGREB, 18 March, 2021 - The government sent its proposal to amend the Volunteering Act to parliament on Thursday, defining the operation of volunteer centres and their funding.

The proposal also defines the concept of corporate volunteering, given that many companies in Croatia have developed a system of volunteering, and the concept of volunteering coordinator, who plays a significant role in efficient management of volunteering programmes in organisations.

The proposal does not allow volunteering for a duration of more than 38 hours a week over a period of more than three months without a break of at least three months, or long-term volunteering that would otherwise constitute a commercial contractual relationship.

The Minister of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy, Josip Aladrović, said that the volunteering sector was developing fast and that the existing law made the implementation of new volunteering initiatives difficult in certain aspects. He said that the proposed amendments would remove the existing obstacles and ambiguities.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 12 March 2021

Zadar: Contracts For Social Entrepreneurship Worth HRK 10 Million Presented

ZAGREB, 12 March, 2021 - Labour Minister Josip Aladrović and deputy director of the National Foundation for Civil Society Development Luka Bogdan presented eight contracts in Zadar on Friday worth nearly HRK 10 million for projects to strengthen the capacities of old and new social enterprises and entrepreneurs.

"Today, we signed contracts with entities that are just starting and that are developing their business in accordance with principles of social entrepreneurship," said Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy Minister Josip Aladrović, noting that the ministry has provided over HRK 112 million to encourage social entrepreneurship.

The pandemic and crisis have created an opportunity for doing some things better and fairer, he said.

I believe that we can find a way in our business to regain a positive social impact. There are four counties among the co-signers: Zadar, Šibenik-Knin, Split-Dalmatia and Lika-Senj counties. All forms of entrepreneurship in these areas are more important than ever before, mostly due to the impact the pandemic has had on the tourism sector and all related activities, Minister Aladrović said, adding that by signing the projects they want to strengthen the capacities of old and new social enterprises through additional employment and education.

Deputy director of the National Foundation for Civil Society Development Luka Bogdan  said that social entrepreneurship was one of the models connecting solidarity and entrepreneurship that could be seen every day, not just in a crisis.

The purpose of the projects is to employ members of vulnerable groups -- women, Croatian war veterans and victims of the Homeland War, people with disabilities and others, and this will include creating new jobs and improving the knowledge and skills of employees through specialised forms of training and employment.

Before presenting the contracts cofinanced by the European Social Fund, Minister Aladrović and his associates had a working meeting with representatives of the City of Zadar on increasing capacities of retirement homes.

According to state secretary Marija Pletikosa, it is estimated that about 5% of the population aged over 65 needs accommodation in a retirement home, and Zadar has not yet reached the capacity to accommodate 3%, so it is necessary to build new retirement homes.

Aladrović said that he supported the idea because increasing the number of accommodation units for the elderly population across Croatia was one the priorities of his ministry.

For more about business in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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