Parliamentarians call for a need to improve programmes and services for children in conflict with the law
Skopje, 30 January 2012: At a meeting to adopt the final conclusions from a recent field visit, parliamentarians – members of a Child Rights Working Group established within the Parliamentary Committee for Labour and Social Policy, and whose members represent a broad range of political parties - called for a need to improve services and programmes for children in conflict with the law. Joined by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative, Mr. Sheldon Yett, the parliamentarians had visited the Tetovo Educational Correctional Home in Veles and the Skopje Center for Social Work in Skopje on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 to learn about the challenges and good practices that institutions are experiencing in implementing justice for children reform.
After visiting the correctional facilities and speaking directly with the professionals and the children and youth,, the parliamentarians unanimously agreed on the need for improvements to ensure the justice system is better able to help children in conflict with the law make a new start in life.
While noting the need to improve living conditions within the correctional home, the parliamentarians called on state authorities to do more to ensure children’s rights to education and health were met. The parliamentarians particularly noted the need to address the lack of adequate education and vocational programmes for youth in conflict with the law, as well as the need to introduce a child appropriate prevention and treatment programme for drug and substance abuse.
Using their oversight, budgeting, and representation authority the Working Group adopted a set of follow up actions that they plan to take to ensure these issues are addressed.
During the visit to the Center for Social Work, the parliamentarians learned first-hand about the results achieved with the pilot Mentoring Programme implemented as part of the European Union (EU) funded and UNICEF co-funded and implemented “Justice for Children” Project.
The programme was piloted in Skopje during 2011 in partnership with the Institute of Social Work and Social Policy, Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Ss Cyril and Methodius and the Inter-municipal Center for Social Work in Skopje. Professional staff from the Center for Social Work and twenty one mentors – students of the Faculty for Philosophy - were trained and paired up with 20 children in conflict with the law.
The professionals shared information about how the programme has helped fill some of the current capacity gaps within the Center for Social Work. The mentors shared stories about the immediate improvements they saw in success of their mentees at school, and improvements in the way the children communicate with their parents and the community. Most importantly, they boasted about the result they are most proud of – the fact that the programme reduced recidivism to zero among the pilot group of children.
Having assessed the programme as a good example, the parliamentarians agreed on the need to help the Center for Social work find a way to ensure the programme continues after the project is completed and a way to address the on-going capacity gaps in the Center.
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