A ‘young’ country on the move

Country Programme 2006-2010

The new UNICEF representative in Albania

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Mr Palm's speech during the "Mapping of Social Services in Albania" event in the framework of Social Services Reform on 15 March 2012

I like to thank the Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities for organizing this meeting. The reform of social care services is important. It is most important for the vulnerable people who are so much dependent on them: Children without parental care, people with disabilities, juveniles in conflict with the law, homeless persons, persons who are addicted to drugs, minorities who find it difficult to integrate and who still tend to be discriminated against, and other socially excluded people.  

There are three reasons for reforming social services:

First, Human Rights and international obligations, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child or the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights. Albania is party to these and other  conventions. If Albania wants to join Europe, these conventions need not only to be signed but implemented.

Second, budgetary efficiency. We need to re-think how some of the services are provided. We cannot allow that children are brought to orphanages by their own mother, because she is to poor to provide for the child. To take care of a child in an institution is much more expensive than helping a family to look after the children. According to the calculations by the Ministry, to care for a child in an institution costs 75,000 Lek per month. Give half of this amount to a family, and the child has a family home where it belongs.

Third, social protection is not just a burden for the taxpayer. Social protection, especially if applied to children, is an investment into poverty reduction. The investment in a vulnerable child, ensuring that it is healthy and goes to school and learns something, will help that this child will become productive and contributes more to society than the costs of social protection. Finance ministers need to understand this. Regional councils, mayors and commune chiefs need to understand this.

We are advancing today with the mapping of social services. We can see on a map, like from an airplane, what services are available, and which are missing. This tool can help regional and local authorities to organize services in the places where they are needed most. Social workers can direct people in need to the services that are available. Once the tool is fully developed, you can see the house in the street where a service is offered. We can see the school where the Roma child is supposed to learn. We can see the health facility where a poor person should get free treatment. We can see where persons can obtain free legal assistance if they need to get a case resolved.

But most importantly, as managers, we can start holding the service providers accountable for providing the service to the vulnerable and the needy. For providing the service without delay, without excuses, without asking for payment.
The policies are in place, the laws are in place. We may need to strengthen institutions and train more people. Regulations and procedures need to be clarified where needed. We are here to help with that.
With this tool, we now can call the individual service providers in the municipalities and communes on the phone. We can call them to account and ask: What did you do, to ensure the woman was protected from her violent husband? What did the headmaster do to ensure the Roma child goes to school? What did the social worker do to help the person with a disability? Why is this child still in an institution and not looked after by a foster care family?

I can see that Albania is making progress in the right direction. Progress needs to take place simultaneously, at central level, in the regions, and in the municipalities and communes. I hope this mapping also helps to clarify responsibilities, and that there is no reason to wait.



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