Protection of children from violence
KRAGUJEVAC, Serbia, 7 November 2013 – A two-day conference has opened today in Kragujevac, Serbia, at which the activities and achievements of a two-year project “Protection of children from violence in South East Europe” are being presented. In addition, the situation regarding the responsiveness of the social care, education and health systems as well as inter-sectoral cooperation in protecting children from abuse and neglect will be analysed. The project is implemented by UNICEF and funded by the European Union.
The conference was opened by UNICEF Serbia Deputy Representative Lesley Miller, by top representatives of Serbian Government line ministries – Minister of Health Slavica Djukic Dejanovic, State Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy Brankica Jankovic, State Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development Muhedin Fijuljanin, and by Kragujevac City Council member Jasmina Nedovic.
“As you are aware, in 2011 the European Union and UNICEF launched a joint initiative to strengthen public services aimed at protecting children from violence through reinforcing partnerships between civil society and state decision makers. Our conference today will showcase the results and achievements of this initiative in Serbia, as well as the remaining challenges and the work that lies ahead of us“, said Lesley Miller, UNICEF Serbia Deputy Representative, addressing the conference participants.
During implementation of the project, previous failures in the area of responsibility and readiness of public services systems to respond in accordance with the needs of children were analysed. In dealing with this issue, service providers who are in contact with children have become better prepared to recognise cases of violence and have improved professional processing of those cases.
The role of the health system in protecting children from abuse and neglect is to create the setting in which everyone accepts responsibility for providing an environment in which every child is protected.
“By mid-2013 over 85% of relevant health institutions had reported the establishment of professional teams for protection of children against abuse and neglect. A manual for implementation of a special protocol has been designed and distributed, and posters sensitising children and their parents to recognise and inviting them to report violence have been put up in community health care centres and other relevant health institutions. However, despite numerous results in the health care system, it seems that there is still a disproportion between the real level of the problem and the number of registered cases of abuse and neglect“, said the Minister of Health, Prof. Dr Slavica Djukic Dejanovic, and she once again asked all those employed within the health care system to be more active and continue working on identification of the problem of violence against children and on protection of children.
In the area of social protection, significant efforts have been made to educate staff in the centres for social work to recognise and adequately respond to cases of violence, as well as to improve the reporting system.
“In the centres for social work, which represent the central axis around which are organised and coordinated the network for protection of children from violence in a local community, important changes have taken place, especially after the Law on Social Protection came into force in 2011. A new method of work has been introduced in these services – case management, which to a certain extent changed and improved child protection procedure“, said Brankica Jankovic, State Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy.
In the past few years, significant progress has been made in preparing the education system to be more efficient in recognising, responding to and reporting cases of violence against children.
“With the support of UNICEF, the system of data collection and processing at national level has been enhanced. This was realised in coordination with school administrations and the newly-formed Violence Prevention Unit within the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development. The Unit now coordinates all activities regarding the education system and represents a big step forward in combating violence. At the same time, the legal framework has been amended, on the basis of which schools are obliged to introduce into their development plans measures for preventing violence and increasing cooperation among students, teachers and parents, as well as to adopt a special programme for protection from violence, abuse and neglect and a programme for prevention of other forms of risky behaviour“, pointed out Muhedin Fijuljanin, State Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, adding that the task of all is to make schools a safe place for children through an inter-sectoral approach and cooperation. “Nothing is more important than the safety of children and our task is to ensure it“, he concluded.
The project has helped to build the professional and institutional capacities of independent supervising bodies and a coalition of civil society organisations to monitor the work of the government as regards the prevention, identification and reporting of cases of violence against children.
UNICEF has set up a partnership with the Office of the Ombudsman regarding the promotion of positive parenting and a legal ban on corporal punishment. As part of this cooperation, the Ombudsman adopted an official Position Paper on banning corporal punishment of children in which are stated reasons for prohibiting corporal punishment used to discipline children in all environments including the family.
Non-governmental organisations and networks are key promulgators of social change and attitudes related to combating violence against children. As part of the project and the partnership with UNICEF, three networks of non-governmental organisations have started independent monitoring of the system for protection from abuse and neglect.
The network “Women against Violence“ focuses on links between violence against women and violence against their underage children in the family environment. The Serbian Alliance of Organisations Supporting Persons with Mental Disabilities (MNRO) reveals the unexplored phenomenon of violence against children with disabilities, while the Network of Organisations for the Children of Serbia (MODS) deals with the analysis and improvement of inter-sectoral cooperation in five selected towns in the area of prevention and response to violence.
During the two days of conference sessions, inter-sectoral teams from Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis and Kragujevac, tasked with improving the implementation of the General Protocol for protection of children against abuse and neglect, and supported through the project, will present the results achieved and the challenges related to collection and exchange of data through the three systems - of health, social care and education. Special focus will be put on the presentation of findings of the independent monitoring of the system for protection of children from abuse and neglect.