Delegation of the European Commission and the UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia visited Međimurje County
By implementing the third phase of the EU Child Guarantee pilot program, UNICEF and partners are improving the lives of children and their families in Međimurje County
Zagreb, December 14, 2022 – During a study visit to Međimurje County, representatives of the high delegation of the European Commission and the UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia witnessed the successful implementation of the pilot-program "Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee in Croatia". Activities within the pilot-program, funded by the European Union, have been carried out for two years by UNICEF Croatia in cooperation with 11 implementing partners and the local community in Međimurje County, thus increasing access to basic services for the most vulnerable children and families living in social exclusion.
Katarina Ivanković-Knežević, Director, Social Affairs, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission, Stefan Iszkowski, Policy Officer, Social Rights and Inclusion Unit, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission, Philippe Cori, Deputy Regional Director, UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, Regina M. Castillo, Representative of the UNICEF Office for Croatia, Tatjana Katkić Stanić, Director, Institute for Social Work, Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy and National Coordinator of the EU Child Guarantee, Matija Posavec, Governor of Međimurje County, Nikola Novak, Municipality mayor of Nedelišće, and Matjaš Oršuš, president of the Roma National Minority Committee of Međimurje County, visited the Center for Children and Families in Parag, Nedelišće municipality, which will soon be operational, and the existing Play Hub and a Toy Library in Držimurec-Strelec.
“The UNICEF pilot project has made an important contribution for the launch of the European Child Guarantee. We welcome the progress made so far in Croatia and we look forward to continuing working together. The Croatian Child Guarantee action plan will set a framework to promote equal opportunities and improve the access to services for children in need in line with the Recommendation”, said Katarina Ivanković-Knežević, Director, Social Affairs, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission.
Representatives of the high delegation met in Zagreb with the Minister of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy, Marin Piletić and the President of the National Steering Committee, State Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy Margareta Mađerić and other members of the National Steering Committee to review the conclusions reached during the study visit and agree on the next steps.
“The Republic of Croatia is one of the seven EU countries in which the pilot project ‘EU Child Guarantee‘ is implemented and whose results and examples of good practice will be incorporated into national documents that form the basis for the implementation of measures and activities in key areas of intervention in order to provided all children with equal access to early preschool education, health and social services, adequate housing conditions and quality nutrition. We strongly advocate that the activities of the program we implement in cooperation with UNICEF in the area of Međimurje County are implemented as an example of good practice and provide access to services for every child in Croatia”, said Marin Piletić, Minister of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy.
Through specific interventions and activities in the third phase of the pilot-programme focused on three areas of action, UNICEF wishes to increase the number of children involved in early and preschool education, provide better access to early childhood intervention services for children with disabilities and their families, empower parents and caregivers and help them develop the necessary skills and provide access to comprehensive child and family protection services.
“We at UNICEF are committed to support the European Commission in fulfilling its promise to break the cycle of poverty and exclusion with the Child Guarantee. In Croatia, the Child Guarantee is being tested in Međimurje County, one of the richest but most unequal counties in the country in terms of access to services. Our interventions are aimed at early identification of children and their families who live in particularly difficult circumstances and for whom early intervention is essential to break the cycle of disadvantage and provide them with opportunities to develop their full potential", said Regina M. Castillo, Representative of UNICEF for Croatia.
The main feature and prerequisite for the success of this program is the implementation in the community, with the community and for the community. That is why Centres for Children and Families are being established within the framework of the EU Child Guarantee to improve the availability of services, especially to families from the most vulnerable groups and deprived communities. Thus, the construction and equipping of four Centres for Children and Families in the municipalities of Orehovica, Mala Subotica, Podturen and Nedelišće are in their final stages, and the Center in the existing space in the municipality of Pribislavec is also equipped. Various activities for children and families, meetings with experts and other parents and guardians, and educational activities will take place in these spaces, in cooperation with municipalities, service providers and the local community.
In addition, the development of the National Action Plan of the EU Child Guarantee is supported in accordance with the Recommendation of the Council of the EU on the establishment of the European Child Guarantee in order to secure a long-term effect on the reduction of child poverty and social exclusion through access to basic services, with the public debate on its proposal expected in the coming days.
“UNICEF recognized Međimurje County as one of the most socially sensitive counties, and we are extremely proud of our cooperation and the activities we carry out together for the benefit of our youngest. Centers for children and families and Play hubs provide the most vulnerable with access to quality pre-school education, as well as early intervention services and education through which support is provided to parents, and the results of the project so far have shown multiple benefits”, said the Governor of Međimurje County Matija Posavec and added that Međimurje is recognized as an example of good practice in terms of early intervention services, and for now it is the only county that has provided personal assistants for children in kindergartens and schools.
“The establishment of the Center for Children and Families in the municipality of Nedelišće creates opportunities to improve the availability of services to children and families, especially for those of our residents who come from the most vulnerable groups. The work of the Center will help children and families to become more easily involved in socio-economic activities and contribute to their socialization. The activities which will be carried out at the Center will certainly result in opportunities for the development of the full potential of all its users”, said Nikola Novak, Municipality mayor of Nedelišće.
RESULTS - NOVEMBER 2022
Child protection and family-support services
- 485 children and 585 parents benefitted from the family support programmes, such as Growing Up Together Plus!
- 285 experts and 21 Roma cultural mediators were educated about parenting support, case management in a multicultural environment and effective family interventions, as well as intersectoral cooperation and integrative service provision
- 7 cross-sectoral teams have been established to ensure integrated service provision
Quality and inclusive pre-primary education
- 2 new Play Hubs with Toy libraries have been equipped with toys, furniture and learning tools in Držimurec Strelec and Kuršanec with support to pre-existing Play Hub in Orehovica. More than 7.500 children aged 2-8 visited the three Play Hubs
- 3 Roma facilitators and 3 professional educators have been employed in Play Hubs
- 181 kindergarten teachers and 95 students of pre-school education, together with 67 experts from other fields participated in trainings for inclusion of Roma children
- Practicum of early and preschool education of the Faculty of Teacher Education, the Department in Čakovec was equipped with inclusive didactic materials and kindergarten furniture which will be used by 150 students every year
- Curriculum for student teaching practice of preschool education has been changed and currently 74 students carried out part of their teaching practice in a multicultural environment with children from the Roma community, currently with more than 300 children
- Costing tool has been developed with the aim of improving policies for financing the costs of preschool education and greater inclusion of children
Early childhood intervention
- Action Plan for Early Childhood Intervention in Međimurje County was developed
- Outreach teams consisting of early childhood intervention experts, pediatricians, gynecologists, psychologists, nurses, sociologists, and Roma cultural mediators have been established, as well as the Point of access to assess children needs
- Outreach teams have so far provided direct and indirect support to 1.882 children and 1.393 parents, and provided 2.892 counselling services
- Online educational platform for health professionals was launched with 49 experts completing 186 online modules in total
Download the infographic with detailed results achieved by November 2022 HERE, read more about the third phase of the EU Child Guarantee HERE. Get to know children, families, and experts through video stories HERE.
"Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee" is funded by the European Union and is implemented in seven European Union countries to ensure access to basic services such as health care, education, quality nutrition, quality housing and care services for children growing up in the most difficult circumstances. The Republic of Croatia was given the opportunity to model the EU Child Guarantee in cooperation with the European Commission and UNICEF in order to work on tackling child poverty and social exclusion, so this pilot-programme is aimed primarily at children with disabilities, children living in a precarious family environment and children of national minorities. It is implemented in seven municipalities of Međimurje County, and through cooperation and knowledge of implementing partners interventions take place in three areas: integrated child protection services and family support, early intervention services and access to quality preschool education.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.