Sunday, 20 March 2022

Campaign Launched to Raise Public Awareness to Protect Children's Rights

ZAGREB, 20 March 2022 - Children's rights are jeopardised on a daily basis and reports of violence against children and child neglect have been increasingly frequent, it was said at a panel discussion this past week at which a campaign for the protection of children's rights was launched.

"The Office of the Children's Ombudswoman in 2021 received 269 reports of violence against children and child neglect, which is 30 more than in 2020. A total of 448 children and 19 groups of children were exposed to violence and neglect," reads a report by the Office.

Ombudswoman Helenca Pirnat Dragičević said that even though state authorities recognised the importance of comprehensive action to prevent violence against children and child neglect, it was necessary to implement educational and prevention campaigns and continue raising awareness of the fact that violence is unacceptable and that it must be reported, including suspicion of violence against children.

The "Croatia for Children" foundation has thus launched the campaign "Make a small step a big one", to last until the end of the year. The purpose of the campaign is to raise public awareness of children's rights, which are often threatened, and of possibilities to protect them.

The foundation's head, Renata Gubić, said that in the 13 years of its existence the foundation had secured HRK 105 million (€14million) for children in need, with its programmes having covered more than 80,000 children.

Marija Barilić of the Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy Ministry said the government was implementing numerous activities aimed at improving the status of children and their protection, including legislative activities to reduce the risk of child poverty, as was securing funding for children's needs and promoting non-institutional care for children.

"Care for children is in the focus of all policies, notably for children who are in the system of institutional care. In 2021, 145 children were adopted, which is the largest number so far," she said.

For more, check out our lifestyle and politics section.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Burnt Down Nursing Home Had More Residents Than Allowed

ZAGREB, January 12, 2020 - The prefect of Krapina-Zagorje County and the head of the county health department said on Saturday, after a fire killed six residents of the "Green Oasis" nursing home, that the home was issued an operating permit for fewer residents than were in the facility during the fire.

Speaking to reporters in Krapina, prefect Željko Kolar said police informed him that 26 residents were in the home in Andraševac at the time of the tragedy.

Martina Gregurović Šanjug, head of the county health department, said the home was issued with a permit in 2012 for eight residents and for another five in 2013.

She said the county was authorised to issue an operating permit when a facility met the minimum technical requirements, while the rest was within the remit of the relevant ministry, including business inspections. She said there had been no complaints about the work of "Green Oasis".

Demography Minister Vesna Bedeković extended her condolences to the families of the victims. Asked by the press in Andraševac if the nursing home had the necessary operating permits, she said this was a private facility and that such facilities obtained such permits from the counties.

Asked if an inspection team from her ministry had ever checked "Green Oasis", she said there had been no complaints about the home.

She announced that her ministry would put present a new social welfare bill "very soon".

Asked about the lack of quality staff in private homes, Bedeković said this was up to the homes.

The chair of the parliamentary Health and Social Policy Committee, Ines Strenja, extended her condolences to the families of the victims and said urgent amendments to regulations and the law on social welfare were necessary for the sake of the tens of thousands of people in nursing homes.

She underlined the importance of decentralising the oversight of such homes, saying in a press release that it was the only way to obtain the real picture of the quality of care and deal with all irregularities in a timely manner.

Strenja said there were over 700 nursing homes in Croatia and that many did not provide adequate care and lacked qualified staff.

She said she had warned the ombudswomen for disabled persons and human rights in a number of reports but that nothing had been done about it.

More news about Krapina-Zagorje County can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Annual National Volunteering Awards Presented

ZAGREB, December 16, 2019 - Over 1,500 organisers have planned and coordinated volunteering activities in Croatia this year, with 62,000 volunteers putting in over 3.2 million hours of work. "They did that because they wanted to and not because they had to. By helping the beneficiaries of their volunteering work, they also enriched the entire society," the Minister for Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy, Vesna Bedeković, said at the presentation of the annual national volunteering awards in Zagreb.

In monetary terms, volunteers contributed 107 million kuna through their work, the minister said, thanking them for their selfless contribution to society.

To further promote volunteering, the ministry has drafted a national volunteering programme for 2020-2024, which is in a final consensus stage, Bedeković said.

The awards were presented to Mirna Grgić from Osijek as the best volunteer, Natalija Kožić Lukačević from Suhopolje as the best coordinator of volunteering work and to "Smijesak za sve" (Smile for All), an association promoting the needs of children, youth and adults with special needs, as the best organiser of volunteering activities.

The Scout Association received the award for promoting innovative practice in volunteering, which was given for the first time.

More news about volunteers in Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Amendments Raising Parental Leave Allowance Put to Public Consultation

ZAGREB, November 5, 2019 - The ministry of demography, family affairs, youth and social policy on Monday put to public consultation amendments to the Maternity and Parental Allowance Act whereby the maximum pay during parental leave (after the first six months of the child's life) would be raised to 5,654 kuna (€759).

Under the amendments, as of April 1, 2020 the maximum allowance paid for the duration of parental leave (after the first six months of the child's life) to employed and self-employed parents would be raised from the current amount of 3,991 kuna (€536) to 5,654 kuna.

The amount would be received for six months if the right is used by one parent, plus an additional two months (a total of eight months) if the right is used by both parents.

Maternity allowance (paid in the first six months of the child's life) would continue to be paid as part of the mother or father's salary and would not be capped.

The changes in the system of maternity and parental leave are being introduced to additionally encourage parents to use parental leave, ensure mothers' stability on the labour market and more strongly include fathers in the early upbringing of children. Using this right would enable parents to harmonise their professional and private life, read the amendments, which will be under public consultation for 30 days.

The Croatian Health Insurance Institute (HZZO) estimates that the amendments will cost an additional 160.65 million kuna in 2020, an additional 214.19 million kuna in 2021 and as much in 2022.

More news about children can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Đakovo Social Welfare Centre Shooter Arrested by Police

ZAGREB, July 10, 2019 - The man, suspected of killing a social worker and wounding a legal adviser in the Đakovo social welfare centre on Tuesday morning, was arrested on Tuesday evening after an extensive police search for him, the local law enforcement authorities said.

The man, who escaped the shooting scene on a bicycle, was on the run for a few hours and the police found him near an entry to the motorway outside the eastern Croatian town of Đakovo in the evening.

Minister of Demography, the Family, Youth and Social Policy Nada Murganić, who arrived in Đakovo on Tuesday afternoon to support the local social welfare centre, described the shooting as dreadful.

The social worker Blaženka Poplašen was killed and the centre's legal adviser, Ivan Pavić, was seriously wounded by the shooter, who is presumed to have mental illness and who has a criminal record. According to information provided by the police, the man opened fire from firearms and killed the social worker and wounded the other employee in the centre and then escaped on a bicycle.

The wounded employee was admitted to the Osijek hospital and according to the latest information he is still in a critical condition.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković expressed their condolences to the family of the killed social worker and condemned the shooting in the strongest terms.

The premier said on Tuesday evening that the police were conducting an investigation to establish all the circumstances of the tragic incident.

More Đakovo news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Over 21,600 Euro Raised to Help Victims of Domestic Violence

ZAGREB, June 15, 2019 - Over 160,000 kuna was raised on Friday to help and protect victims of domestic violence at a #SPASIME Fund charity event organised by the #SPASIME Initiative and the SOLIDARNA Human Rights and Solidarity Foundation.

The money was raised at an auction of works by Croatian artists and via a call centre. Present were public, cultural and political figures, including Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković and Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy Minister Nada Murganić.

The #SPASIME Fund was established by the #SPASIME Initiative and the SOLIDARNA Foundation, which are raising funds until the end of July for financial, legal, psychological, medical and housing assistance to victims.

Prime Minister Plenković underlined that the government had joined the #SPASIME Initiative. He recalled that earlier in the day he met with the heads of six counties which still have no safe houses, announcing that this problem should be resolved by the end of the year with the help of EU funds.

"I remind you that last year we ratified the Istanbul Convention. Nothing negative has happened. The government has drawn up a document which says which institution does what. A hotline was also opened at which one can get help around the clock. It's also important to work on education, so that one learns from an early age that violence is wrong," he said.

Plenković said VAT would not have to be paid on the funds raised at the event.

Murganić said there were 1,381 complaints against welfare centres last year and that her ministry looked into every case. "Social services are outdated, so we'll amend the law," she added.

As for amendments to laws on domestic violence and violence against women, Minister Bošnjaković said "three laws are being amended. Our goal is to be faster and more efficient."

More news about the status of women can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Only 6% of Croatia's Blind People Are Employed

ZAGREB, June 13, 2019 - There are about 6,000 blind people in Croatia yet only 6% of them are employed, it was heard at a panel discussion in parliament on Wednesday which pointed out inclusive allowance and assistants for blind people as well as better education and employment opportunities as crucial tasks.

The panel discussion was organised by MP Ljubica Lukačić (HDZ) on the occasion of the Day of the Croatian Blind Union, marked June 16.

The Union's president Vojin Perić underscored the importance of a solid secondary school education and employing the blind which, he says is the crown of their social integration.

He identified the problem with employing the blind in the fact that many of the vocations the blind were employed in the past have disappeared and now they need to be trained for new market demands.

"The blind may not have work as telephone operators anymore but they can be employed in call centres yet it is difficult for them to find work even in public institutions," he said.

He in particular underscored the issue of an inclusive allowance for the blind which will be paid as of next year and should improve their quality of life and the Union expects that amount to be at least 6,000 kuna.

He explained that a compensatory allowance should, regardless of an assets test, be sufficient to cover the costs of requirements incurred because of their disability.

Despite the problems, the state shows exceptional care for the disabled, hence state-secretary in the Ministry of Social Policy Marija Pletikosa underscored improvements to their material status thanks to the law on social welfare which led to an increase in the disability allowance and the allowance for personal care and assistance.

This year, 1,700 beneficiaries enjoyed the services of a personal assistant and have 81 interpreters for the blind and 35 seeing assistants at their disposal, Pletikosa said, adding that 125 million kuna had been secured for this.

More news about social issues can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Maternity Leave Allowance Increased to 5,600 Kuna

ZAGREB, May 10, 2019 - Maternity leave allowance for the second six months will as of 1 April 2020 be increased from the current 3,990 kuna to 5,600 kuna, Minister of Demography, the Family, Youth and Social Policy Nada Murganić announced on Friday after presenting new population measures for 2019 at a meeting of the Council for Demographic Revitalisation.

Murganić underlined that this is the second time maternity allowances were being increased and that they have increased by 110% and will apply to between 60% and 65% of beneficiaries.

"That is one of the most significant measures, a measure that has been very well accepted by the public already with the first increase and will certainly resound well again now," the minister told a press conference.

She underscored that strengthening material status with these allowances is extremely important for young families and recalled that last year a law was adopted on child allowance and that the threshold had been raised so that a larger number of beneficiaries were eligible for child allowance.

"When we add everything, we have done for new kindergartens to be built and improving conditions in child care centres by signing contracts for the construction of 200 new kindergartens to be financed from EU funds, then we can say that we have laid sound foundations for people to balance their working and family life.

Murganić said that the Council had decided that as of the next school year a pilot programme would be introduced for after-school programmes in schools that currently do not provide this service and that 70 million kuna had been secured for this purpose.

More news about demographic issues can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Protesters Call for Zero Tolerance to Violence

ZAGREB, March 16, 2019 - Protesters who rallied in Zagreb on Saturday to show solidarity with victims of violence said "Croatia needs zero tolerance to violence" and read out the demands they will put to the government on Monday.

Several hundred protesters rallied in King Tomislav Square, carrying banners with messages against domestic violence - "Love doesn't hurt", "Violence is not a family matter", "Let's not give in", "We are all responsible", "A crime, not a misdemeanour", "Zero tolerance", "I'm a victim of domestic violence too", "The victim is never to blame", "Brave people" and "Actions speaker louder than words".

Protesters said domestic violence was on the rise, with 145 such crimes reported in 2015, 330 in 2016, of which 279 against women, and 552 in 2017, including 464 against women. They said that in 90% of the cases domestic violence was tried as a misdemeanour, including 16,000 such cases in 2015, 13,000 in 2016 and 12,000 in 2017.

Protesters said 91 women were killed in Croatia over the past five years, accounting for 47% of all murders. In 70% of the cases, the murderer was a person close to the victim and in over a half they were their partners.

The organisers of today's #SaveMe protest demand the immediate enforcement of all measures necessary to reduce violence, notably in the family, to improve the work of institutions and the legal framework, and to raise public awareness.

They called on the authorities to take a more serious approach to domestic violence, to improve regulations and to stop treating victims and perpetrators equally. They demand better cooperation between prosecutors, the police and welfare centres, as well as protecting the dignity and safety of victims during legal proceedings.

Furthermore, they demand additional training for professionals working with victims of violence and more money for associations working on the protection of victims.

Today's protest was prompted by a recent case in which a father threw his four children from a balcony on the island of Pag. Protests were also held in Dubrovnik, Šibenik and Split.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Saturday took part in a Zagreb protest for stronger protection of victims of domestic violence, saying violence should be treated as a crime and that punishment should be stricter as that was the only way "to reduce this phenomenon, which is really big in society."

Speaking to reporters at the #SaveMe rally, Plenković said he did not consider it a protest but an initiative he supported.

He recalled that on March 8 last year he announced the ratification of the Istanbul Convention and that his main arguments in its favour had been very similar to those heard at today's rally.

Plenković said domestic violence was an everyday phenomenon happening to many women and children, "which is the first true problem of the tissue of our society." He reiterated the five main messages he made in parliament ahead of the ratification of the Istanbul Convention last year to show that the government was applying European mechanisms in the prevention of domestic violence and victim protection.

The goals are stronger prevention, stricter punishment for perpetrators, greater support and care for victims, strengthening all the institutions involved in this issue, and raising public awareness, Plenković said.

He said he had tasked Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković with drawing up amendments to the Penal Code to increase punishment and to make sure the police, whenever possible, qualified violence as a crime and not a misdemeanour.

Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy Minister Nada Murganić will continue to work on improving the implementation of the national strategy for protection from domestic violence, including by increasing funding for hotlines and safe houses, Plenković said.

He said he and his ministers would meet with representatives of the #SaveMe initiative on Monday and ask that civil society organisations and NGOs continue contributing to dealing with this problem. He said he had come today as prime minister as well as a citizen concerned for victims of violence, and that it was good that individuals, groups of citizens and the government worked on the problem together.

Asked when the Penal Code could be amended, Plenković said the amendments would not be extensive, applying to only several articles, and that "it could be done by the summer recess."

He said it was necessary to raise awareness among judges with regard to domestic violence and to prioritise the prosecution of such crimes by better organising the work of courts, with the support of the Justice Ministry.

Asked if the public could expect his cabinet to do everything to prevent and reduce violence, Plenković said they were doing their best and that domestic violence did not start yesterday and would not stop tomorrow as it was facilitated by new technologies. "It's time we all make a step forward together, fully aware that we are doing something good."

Asked to comment on the criticisms of Minister Murganić, notably regarding her statements about domestic violence, and the fact that one of the demands at today's protest was her resignation, Plenković said he had not heard this demand and that the minister had apologised for the statements.

He said Murganić's job, dealing with welfare, families, demography and youth, was "demanding" and that "she is doing a very good job, resolving problems and giving her all."

As for criticisms that Murganić's department was understaffed, Plenković said salaries were raised at her initiative and that, as of July, more money were set aside from the national budget and the European Social Fund.

More news about the issue of domestic violence can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Social Policy Minister Has No Intention of Resigning

ZAGREB, March 5, 2019 - Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy Minister Nada Murganić said on Monday that interdepartmental cooperation was of vital importance and that she would decide on the dismissal of the head of the Zadar Social Care Centre, Vesna Burčul, after the centre's steering board analysed the tragedy that happened on Pag island last week, when a man threw his four underage children from the balcony of the house they live in.

The minister said that everyone must admit their omissions before discussing omissions in the work of others.

Both social workers and ministry officials have to work towards strengthening the system of social care, she said.

Asked who would now be taking care of the children - victims of domestic violence, Murganić said that the ministry and social workers were responsible for them but that the children should also be protected from excessive public interest while their recovery should continue to be monitored.

She said that she was not surprised that Vesna Burčul, head of the Zadar Social Care Centre, which covers Pag, was not replaced today because the procedure was such that findings of an investigation into the case first had to be analysed by the centre's steering board, after which Burčul would have the right to state her position on the findings.

Murganić said that she was glad to have received support from both the president and the prime minister after the public called for her resignation.

"That's the nature of the department I'm heading, political actors frequently question my position, but that does not bother me much. I took up office at the government's invitation and with the support of the parliamentary majority, and if I should go, that's how I will go," she said.

The head of the Zadar Social Care Centre, Vesna Burčul, said earlier in the day that the tragic event on Pag could not have been prevented and warned about social hypocrisy related to care about children in the system of social care, saying that that care was perfunctory and that the network of services for support to children and parents was weak and inefficient.

More news about social policy in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Page 1 of 4