Parliamentary Debate on the Bill Law on Social and Child Protection

“Bill Law on Social and Child Protection is significantly improved compared to the Bill previously withdrawn from the parliamentary procedure, but it can be still amended regarding strengthening the cooperation, defining the shelters for homeless and record keeping,” the IA stated.

IA’ s public policy researcher, Dragana Radovic, attended 7th Session of the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Labour and Social Welfare and contributed to the discussion about the Bill Law on Social and Child Protection.

IA believes that the essential part of the Bill Law is significantly improved and that it promotes the most important novelties envisaged by the social and child protection reform, recognizes the role of civil society organizations as the most frequent providers of social services, defines and encourages the development of social services, with emphasis on de-institutionalization and providing access to social services in local communities, introduces licensing and accreditation process, establishes the Institute for Social and Child Protection and improves record keeping in a form of making social cards or the electronic database of the beneficiaries of social and children protection rights.

“However, we believe that there is a room for amendments when it comes to defining the term of homeless, strengthening the cooperation between the employment agencies and social welfare centers, record keeping and defining the service of shelters for homeless,” said Radovic.

Radovic pointed out that it was necessary to include more representatives of civil society in drafting and commenting on the Draft Law on Social and Child Protection. “We especially refer to the Article 17 of the Bill entitled Strategic documents and warn that the practice is to first adopt strategies which define the long-term goals and priorities of social and child protection, and then laws and other regulations. Drafting of this law made an exception from this practice. ”

When it comes to managing data, Article 148 stipulates record keeping of service providers and beneficiaries of the rights in social and child protection. IA believes that it is necessary to undertake certain actions in order to oblige social services’ providers, especially civil society organizations, to regularly exchange data and information about the beneficiaries of their services. This measure leads to establishing of a unique and reliable database of service providers and services available in local communities, but also prevents the abuses. IA suggests this obligation of data exchanging to be arranged by the agreement between a contractor (state or local government) of social services and social services’ providers. This is a temporary solution until the establishment of providers licensing, which is planned for a period of two years after the Law come into force.

“The concept of homelessness is not adequately defined. Homeless is not a just a person who lives in the open air or on the street, but also a person who is temporarily placed in a shelter or any person who has no property or means for living,” said Radovic.

Although the focus of social and child protection reform is on the development of social services, the Bill Law on Social and Child Protection does not clearly define all types of accommodation. In particular, for foster care and family accommodation is not provided when and in which situations should be provided certain types of accommodation (standard, emergency, temporary accommodation, with intensive or additional support) neither it is provided the regulation of this issue by specific bylaw. Also, the shelter service is just mentioned but not defined neither is predicted the specific bylaw which will define this service. Although IA argues that the shelter service should be under the jurisdiction of local governments, definition of the basic criteria for the provision of this service in the Bill Law is necessary especially if we have in mind that the local government is not obliged to provide additional social rights and child protection.

The Bill Law promotes activation of beneficiaries of social assistance who are able to work, but does not bind the conclusion of individual plans of activation on overcoming adverse situations of beneficiaries. Specifically, the Bill Law provides that the Centre for Social Work may (or may not) make an agreement on overcoming adverse situations of beneficiaries. IA believes that the individual activation plan must be mandatory for all beneficiaries of social assistance able to work or at least, the Bill Law or bylaw must define criteria on which center for social work can assess whether or not to conclude this plan.

IA believes that it is not necessary to restrict the right to reimbursement to employers for maternity and parental leave as well as the right to financial support (social assistance) to those beneficiaries who are able to work if they meet all the obligations stipulated in the individual activation plan and individual employment plan. Managing and monitoring these cases require intensive cooperation between the Employment Agency and the Center for Social Work and coordination of the activities envisaged in the plans of these two institutions.

Although a large number of IA’s recommendations and comments on the Bill Law on Social and Child Protection are adopted by both- the proposer and the MPs (members of the Committee), it is necessary to take further actions for amendments, in order to improve the quality of new normative framework of social and child protection.

Dragana Radović
Policy Analyst

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