“More Than a Project - Reform of the System in the Interest of Children and Parents”

In the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton, 100 coordinators trained who will be involved in the assessment and referral of children with disabilities

Almir Panjeta for UNICEF
Više od projekta – reforma sustava u interesu djece i roditelja”
UNICEF/Panjeta
19 April 2022

Training was completed in Mostar for 100 coordinators - representatives of educational, health and social institutions of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton, who will be involved in the assessment and referral of children with disabilities in accordance with the World Health Organization's International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). The plan is for this canton to start a new assessment system, the first of its kind in the region, as early as in May and June this year. Previously, training was held for members of professional bodies who will, in the coming period, assess and refer children, and work closely with coordinators in the field in whose training they actively participated.

"Thanks to UNICEF, which provided financial and professional support, we are one of the cantons that, together with Zenica-Doboj, was chosen to start implementing a new system under the ICF, which is a system that will benefit children with disabilities and their families", said Janja Milinković from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Welfare of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton, head of the working group for the reform of the assessment and referral system for children with disabilities.

"We have started to put into practice what we have been doing in previous years, and this is more than a project - this is a reform of the system in the interest of our children and parents. For the first time, all three sectors are cooperating in this way - health, social protection and education ", she added.

According to Nefiza Dautović from the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton Ministry of Education, a particularly important segment of the system reform is the multi-sectoral approach:

"It gives us an opportunity to talk openly and professionally about all the challenges. I believe that this approach, and that this manual and all rulebooks are designed for a holistic approach to the growth and development of every child".

 

Više od projekta – reforma sustava u interesu djece i roditelja”
UNICEF/Panjeta
Više od projekta – reforma sustava u interesu djece i roditelja”
UNICEF/Panjeta

Participants were also introduced to the "Manual for the development, monitoring and evaluation of a personalized support plan" authored by Darko Kobetić, professor rehabilitator and consultant to UNICEF Bosnia and Herzegovina and a lecturer at the training for coordinators.

"This is a manual that finally gives us unique material for everything that lies ahead, a very structured process that is included in this manual and should be of help to any expert who will continue to deal with the system of child assessment, monitoring and inclusion in any sector ", explained Kobetić.

"The analysis we did at the beginning showed us that the knowledge about the ICF is vague - most experts know that it exists, but not fully what its content is, and especially not how it is applied. We are starting to implement the new assessment system already in May this year. We are shifting from talking about the child and the family to talking to the child and the family ", explained Kobetić to the participants, adding that the ICF does not completely exclude the medical model, but complements it:

"If we have data on impairment and diagnosis, they are a fact, but we also need to see what is not impaired or is functional enough to mitigate or compensate for the impairment," he said, adding that the initiated reform is something innovative and inclusive, not only for the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina but for the entire region. He added that further support from the authorities is crucial for the full implementation of these reforms:

"I want to congratulate those who had the courage to take this professional step forward, and I believe that they will have enough courage to see it through, that this will be a practice that will really live in this area, and a practice that will be an example to other places as well, that we will make an inclusive society instead of being focused on fixing the individual, and ensure more functional individuals through an inclusive society". 

Više od projekta – reforma sustava u interesu djece i roditelja”
UNICEF/Panjeta
Više od projekta – reforma sustava u interesu djece i roditelja”
UNICEF/Panjeta

Igor Ledić, President of the Down Syndrome Association Mostar and a member of the working group, says that parents of children with disabilities expect a lot from the new assessment system:

"As for me as a parent, I can say that this is a big step forward for us parents. I think that the practice so far has not been really good, and our expectations are high. We think that the access of parents and children to educational and all other institutions will be greatly facilitated, and that we will finally get the support that these children deserve."

On behalf of the Prime Minister and Government officials of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton, the Government Spokesman Pero Pavlović emphasized that this canton is the first in Bosnia and Herzegovina to pilot this new system:

"I would like to thank the government coordination team for their great contribution to drafting rulebooks, guidelines and criteria that will be presented to the relevant ministries in order to implement this model throughout the Federation of  Bosnia and Herzegovina," he said, adding that the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton government recognized the significance of this project and saw that it was very important, and therefore in December last year accepted the Proposal of the Law on Amendments to the Law on Social Welfare and sent it to further parliamentary procedure:

"One of the reasons for passing this law was to harmonize the system of assessment, monitoring and referral of children with disabilities with the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). The Assembly did its part, and after that our colleagues from the working group together with UNICEF associates worked very intensively on this project."

UNICEF Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Dr. Rownak Khan said that children with disabilities are the most vulnerable and marginalized group everywhere in the world, including in Bosnia and Herzegovina:

"The discrimination they face at the very beginning continues throughout their lives, so they face discrimination when it comes to their rights to education and health care, as well as later their rights to employment and to be fully fledged citizens," said Dr. Khan, adding that UNICEF in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been working for years with the authorities at various levels - cantonal, entity and state level, in order to fully include children and people with disabilities in all segments of life:

"What is being discussed at this workshop - the ICF developed by the WHO, is the way in which the assessment of children with disabilities will be done in the future. This work implies the involvement of several sectors - education, health and social protection, and what I consider most important is working with families and children with disabilities. Given that this work in the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton will begin in May, I look forward to continuing to provide support in this regard, and I am confident that we will see positive results of this work, "she concluded.