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Advanced community-based services for children with disability and their families in Serbia

BELGRADE, 4 December 2013 – The finalisation of a successful project “Developing community based services for children with disability and their families” has been marked today in Belgrade. The project was implemented from April 2010 to December 2013 by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy in partnership with UNICEF Serbia, and was funded by the European  Union in the amount of 2 million Euros.

Dijana Lazic (17), a beneficiary of the home assistance service addresses the Conference - UNICEF Serbia / Emil Vas / 2013

The project is part of a wider European Union programme in Serbia aimed at advancing social inclusion of children with disability. The funding was secured through the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) in the total amount of 5.5 million Euros. Significant results have been achieved over three years:
  • The State policy framework, institutional mechanisms and capacities at both national and local levels have been strengthened, The programme have contributed to system changes through the adoption of key by-laws, thus creating conditions for the development of sustainable community-based services responsive to the needs of children with disability and their families. 
  • Grants in the amount of 3 million Euros have been dispensed to 41 municipalities around Serbia, thus allowing for the development and  improvement of 52 community-based services, such as day-care, home help and respite care services. Some 930 beneficiaries - children with disabilities and their parents - are directly benefiting from these services. 
  • A public awareness campaign on the importance of social inclusion of children with disability and improving the existing and developing news services has been implemented.    

The Conference was opened by Ms Brankica Jankovic, State Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy, Mr Michael Davenport, Ambassador, Head of the EU Delegation to the Republic of Serbia,  and Mr Michel Saint-Lot, UNICEF Representative.

“Providing equal chances to all citizens, and the most vulnerable children in particular, is one of the basic principles of the European Union. Our priority is, therefore, to assist Serbia, as a future EU member state, to advance the system of social inclusion of the most vulnerable population groups. 

This project has brought significant results towards making Serbia a better and more tolerant society, and a more quality life for children with disability. The European Union will continue to assist Serbia in its efforts to create equal opportunities for all children in Serbia”, stressed Ambassador Davenport.

The Conference was opened by Ms Brankica Jankovic, State Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy, Mr Michael Davenport, Ambassador, Head of the EU Delegation to the Republic of Serbia and Mr Michel Saint-Lot, UNICEF Representative - UNICEF Serbia / Emil Vas / 2013

“The most important achievements and contributions of the project to the reform of the social-welfare system in the past three years relates directly to children with disability. The number of these children placed in residential institutions has dropped for around 30 per cent, while a legislative ban on institutionalization of children under three years of age is bearing fruit with the  numbers dropping every year. At the same time, the number of services for children with disability at community level has almost tripled”, said UNICEF Representative Michel Saint-Lot. 

Ms. Brankica Jankovic, State Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy, said that the legislative framework enables functioning and further advancement of the quality of social protection, but that challenges still remained in the creation of conditions for full implementation of the laws. “The issue of the implementation of the set goals in the area of developing services for children with disability and their families must be regarded in a wider context, as part of the social inclusion process. This practically means parallel and coordinated activities in different systems, with special focus on the implementation of education inclusion and further strengthening of the health system’s role in providing support to the most vulnerable children and their parents”, said Jankovic. 

Family and family environment are of vital importance for a child’s development. It is therefore necessary to continue with the transformation of large-scale institutions and strengthening biological families. To achieve these goals, of crucial importance is continuous monitoring and oversight, as well as analytical reporting with the aim of improving access to and quality of community-based services. 

The Conference gathered some 150 representatives of service providers, social welfare professionals and experts, civil society organisations (including parents’ associations), independent oversight bodies, as well as representatives of other international organisations  active in the social welfare and child protection sectors. The Conference  provided a forum for exchange of experiences, knowledge, practices and lessons learnt in child-care reforms in Serbia, allowing discussion about conceptual and practical implications when it comes to sustainability of community-based services.

On the second day, the Conference participants will articulate recommendations for future steps to ensure continuity of child-care reforms within comprehensive social inclusion agenda and responsibilities of different sectors. 

For more information, please contact:

Vesna Dejanovic
UNICEF Child Protection Officer
Tel: 063 219 758

Jadranka Milanovic
Communication Officer
Tel: 063 336 283



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