Important improvements in the lives of children and families as part of the EU Child Guarantee pilot-programme
National Action Plan is being drafted to address the challenges of child poverty and social exclusion
UNICEF Office for Croatia, in cooperation with 11 implementing partners, is successfully implementing the EU-funded pilot-programme EU Child Guarantee in Medjimurje County. The implementation aims to increase access to basic services for the most disadvantaged children and their families. In order to enable equal opportunities for every child in the long term, the sustainability of activities and their ability to be replicated in other environments are being successfully tested, and a National Action Plan is being drafted to address the challenges of child poverty and social exclusion.
Through specific interventions and activities in the third phase of the pilot-programme focused on three areas of action, UNICEF wants 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 help them develop the necessary skills and provide access to comprehensive child and family protection services.
Achieved results by areas
Child protection and family-support services
• 389 children benefitted from the family support programmes
• 627 parents acquired new parenting knowledge and skills, through parenting support programmes such as Growing Up Together Plus!
• 55 professionals and 21 Roma cultural mediators acquired knowledge and skills to conduct parenting support programmes
• 66 professionals from social welfare centres acquired new knowledge and skills on leadership and management, overcoming stereotypes and learning Bayash language
• 30 family field workers acquired new knowledge and skills on effective family interventions
• 150 professionals from 7 settlements acquired new knowledge and skills on cross-sectoral cooperation and 7 cross-sectoral teams have been established to ensure integrated service provision.
Quality 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. These hubs will cover around 450 children through offered activities.
• 3 Roma facilitators and 3 professional educators have been employed in play hubs
• 77 experts participated in trainings for change by addressing and overcoming their own stereotypes in working with children
• A 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
• The curriculum for student practice of preschool education has been changed so the students are going through part of their practice in a multicultural environment with children from the Roma community
• A costing tool has been developed and tested with selected Medjimurje municipalities and kindergartens with the aim to have a better grasp on funds necessary to involve all children in kindergarten.
Early childhood intervention
• An Action Plan for Early Intervention in Medjimurje County was developed, based on mapping and analysis of early intervention services and recommendations for activities
• An outreach team composed of early intervention experts, paediatricians, gynaecologists, psychologists, nurses, sociologists, and Roma cultural mediators has been gathered and a Point of access was established to assess children needs
• The outreach teams have so far provided support to 538 children and 415 parents, and provided 1,614 counselling services
• 44 experts were trained on cross-sectoral cooperation in providing early intervention services
• Online educational platform for health professionals was launched involving more than 60 health professionals
Development of the National Action Plan
Throughout EU Member States, including Croatia, a National Action Plan addressing the challenges of child poverty and social exclusion is being drafted. In accordance with the European Commission recommendations, all Croatian relevant ministries are invited to participate in creating such plan. In order for the plan to be success it is crucial to monitor goals set, use those indicators which are measurable and where progress can be seen in particularly sensitive areas such as early childhood education and access to social services, especially for families at risk.
“In order to improve the living conditions for every child at risk of poverty and social exclusion, quality cross-sectoral cooperation between the health, social care, education, police, judiciary, local community and non-profit sectors is necessary. Their coordinated action, focused on the child and his/her family, is essential not only for the child's development, but also for ensuring other achievements and life outcomes and, ultimately, the success of society as a whole. The wellbeing of children should be at the heart of all actions and our shared responsibility”, said Tatjana Katkić Stanić, Director of the Institute for Social Welfare at the Ministry of Labour, Pensions, Family and Social Policy and National Coordinator of the EU Child Guarantee program in Croatia.
“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 Medjimurje County, one of the richest but most unequal counties in the country in terms of access to services. Our vision is to develop a model in support of the Government and the municipalities that can be successfully replicated and scaled up to ensure that more children have access to pre-school education, early diagnosis of disabilities and developmental delays and integrated child protection and family support services”, said Regina M. Castillo, Representative of the UNICEF Office for Croatia.
"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 Medjimurje 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, 2021 “The information and views set out in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.”
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.