Building together - Support granted by the DGASPC for the development of social community services
by Sorin Braşoveanu – General Director of DGASPC Bacău
Tackling social matters through preventive measures is a very complex business.
The harsh reality is that in most places, social services actually consist of one overloaded social worker, so cases cannot be monitored in practice. Lack of human resources, funding and interest in the necessary vocational training are just a few of the reasons why primary case intervention seems to be wishful thinking for the moment.
Specialised services typically get information and take action on a case by case basis, but when the teams reach the site and assess the situation, their only option is usually to remove the child from their environment and place them in emergency care.
A few recent examples confirm the bleak picture. In the same week, specialists from the DGASPC in Bacău were notified of two extreme cases by journalists, who had heard of them from their sources. A two-year-old girl from Comăneşti and a 16-year-old from Bereşti Bistriţa had died owing to extreme negligence from their parents. Neighbours, the family doctors and the local authorities had not been able to prevent the tragedy.
Social services had failed to intervene, as was required by law. And even though they were aware that the two children were at risk, nobody had requested any specialised intervention. Both children, victims of general indifference, could have been saved if the families into which they were born had been healthy and if their GP had called on them regularly to monitor their health. If the local authorities had observed Law No. 272/2004 on the protection and promotion of the rights of the child, local social workers would have been familiar with these cases and would have attempted to solve them. Once viable local options had been exhausted, they could have requested specialised intervention.
Going back, there are further examples. In the first few months of 2009, the DGASPC in Bacău was placing groups of five or seven siblings in emergency care on a daily basis. Nobody in the community was doing anything about it and there were no viable local alternatives.
We have become increasingly saddened as we realised that despite being completely open and listening to the needs of the local authorities, including the organisation of debates in areas around the county with similar social problems, where we presented examples of good practice and case intervention, we could not overcome the lack of interest in social services, which is perceived only as a big consumer of funds. We were relatively powerless against the famous government emergency ordinance No. 1/2010, which previously restructured social services and, in some cities, dismantled the accredited services where they existed. Unfortunately, the few punishments stipulated by law are not enforced, which allows irresponsibility to flourish.
Vulnerable people and children cannot be blamed for the lack of social services. The DGASPC in Bacău informed the county and central authorities of its high number of cases and their severity and initiated a plan of action at county level, including regional meetings with decision-makers in each town: mayor, doctor, teacher, police officer, priest, social affairs officer. The aim of the meetings was to analyse the local authorities’ capacity to efficiently manage social affairs and to reduce pressure on specialised services. This resulted in the development of a component to mobilise local resources (human resources, material resources, meetings).
The problems identified at the meetings became a list of goals included in the project “Responsible authorities! Involved communities!” – funded by the European Social Fund. It sets out what needs to be done to meet the goals: training and consulting activities, technical assistance and the exchange of good practice with a view to developing the required skills to devise and provide social services, as well as improving the quality and efficiency of basic social services.
One aim of the project is to strengthen cooperation between the department and the local authorities in order to implement decentralised social welfare and child protection in Bacău. Another is to develop the required skills and the transfer of good practice between the department and the local authorities to improve the comprehensive social welfare services supplied by the community.
In the short term, we hope that “Responsible authorities! Involved communities!” will see the accreditation of as many Public Social Assistance Services (SPAS) as possible, while in the long term, we’re aiming for access to European funding through the development of projects that ultimately result in the development of a basic social services network based on the needs of the communities.