Public opinion in Serbia on social inclusion of children with disability
Belgrade, 3 December 2009 – The majority of citizens in Serbia have a relatively positive attitude towards children with disability and feeling of their acceptance in schools and in socializing with other children, but deeper emotional bonding and relationships with these children are still a distant reality, show the public opinion poll findings on social inclusion carried out by UNICEF Serbia Office.
The research was focused on assessing perceptions, beliefs, concerns and values of the citizens of Serbia related to social inclusion of children with disability in Serbia. Data collection was conducted on the sample of over 1,000 respondents using ad hoc face-to-face surveying, with respondents interviewed in their homes.
The research findings will be used in planning and implementing policies and measures aimed at achieving social inclusion of these children.
• Most citizens express a relatively positive attitude, i.e. acceptance of children with disability in their environment, in school and in socializing with their own children, although the predominant first connotations are sadness, pity, helplessness and illness. However, deeper emotional bonding and relationship towards these children still do not exist. The lowest level of social distance has been registered towards children with sensual disabilities (visual and hearing impairment) and non-communicable chronic diseases (e.g. heart diseases, diabetes, etc.). The greatest social distance is towards the children who suffer from communicable chronic diseases (e.g. HIV/AIDS), children with severe behavior disorders (antisocial behavior, hyperactivity) and more severe emotional problems (mental illness).
• Almost 90% of the citizens consider children with disability as equally valuable members of the society, and at the same time agree that these children do not have the same chances in life. The reasons for the unequal opportunities lie in the way the state and the society address this issue. Although aware of how important a positive attitude of the community is, even 80% of the general population believes that through professional assistance and special relationship of the society and institutions, it is possible to partially prepare children with disability for life in the society. Attending regular schools positively affects the development of children with disability and also contributes to better understanding and tolerance by their peers is the opinion of 60% of the respondents. At the same time as many as 40% of citizens believe that children with disability should attend specialised educational institutions adjusted to their needs and not to regular schools. According to 60% of the respondents, the education system and the way educational institutions function are not adjusted to children with disability , which should be one of the state’s and the society’s priorities.
• A vast majority of Serbian citizens (94%) share the view that families of children with disability cannot cope with the challenges they face alone and that they must be supported by the state. Although over 80% of citizens believe that other children growing up in families with a child with disability learn to be more attentive and more tolerant, opinions are somewhat divided regarding the neglect of other children in such families by their parents.
• 60% of the respondents agree with the view that it is better for a child with disability who is without parental care to be placed in a foster family than in a residential social care institution. However, 40% of them believe that the best solution for all these children is institutional care because such an environment can ensure the best conditions for their development.
This public opinion poll was conducted within the “Transforming Residential Institutions for Children and Developing Sustainable Alternatives” project implemented by UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and funded by the European Union. The aim of the project is to ensure full capacity of the child care system in responding to the needs and rights of the most vulnerable children in Serbia, and thus contribute to the process of creating conditions for the inclusion of children with disability.
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