Assessing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on children with the assistance of social workers
Centres for Social Work have played a key role in collecting reliable data for a rapid assessment of the social impact of the coronavirus crisis, a survey that took place in Montenegro from 14 to 30 April, with the support of UN agencies
KOTOR, 7 MAY 2020 – After completing the online-based training on how to conduct research on the social impact of the coronavirus crisis in Montenegro, Milica Pavicevic, a social worker from the Centre for Social Work in Kotor conducted numerous telephone conversations with single parents, families whose children have developmental disabilities, and Roma families, as well as educators of children without parental care from the "Mladost" Children's Home Public Institution in Bijela.
Most often, respondents reported being afraid for their health and the health of their children. When it comes to the biggest risks – they frequently mentioned the economic situation and worries related to livelihoods.
Collecting data was not a difficult task for her since she was aware of the problems of the surveyed families, meaning that it was not difficult for her to get the necessary information from them. That is why the Centres for Social Work have played a key role in collecting reliable data for a rapid assessment of the social impact of the coronavirus crisis, a survey that took place in Montenegro from 14 to 30 April, with the support of UN agencies.
Professional workers remain in daily contact with members of various vulnerable categories, and there is already an established sense of mutual trust, which is particularly important when respondents need to be convinced that this is an anonymous survey and that no personal data will be collected.
She is convinced that analysing the socio-economic circumstances of vulnerable households will make the provision of assistance easier and faster in the future. Based on the conducted interviews, she already has a clear insight into the needs related to adjusting the social protection system during the COVID-19 crisis.
Together with the Bureau of Employment Services, we must continue to promote the employment of vulnerable categories. In addition to this, there is an imminent need for subsidies for the internet in the case of the continuation of distance learning.
She also proposes the introduction of material benefits for those whose material status is at risk due to absence from work due to self-isolation or coronavirus infection. Pavicevic adds that social protection could be improved by providing family counselling services at the Centres for Social Work, as well as by encouraging volunteerism among the young in order to help vulnerable groups.
UNICEF's Marija Novkovic points out that UN agencies will continue to engage with the relevant institutions in order to mitigate the adverse effects of the current crisis on children and families as soon as possible.
We are aware that crises like this can further aggravate the situation of families with children and particularly vulnerable groups, such as children without parental care. The rapid assessment was conducted with the aim of coming up with support measures based on quality data and of advocating for their implementation to our partners in the Government of Montenegro.
According to the findings from the assessment, families receiving material assistance, single-parent households, Roma families, and children in foster families and in residential institutions are at particular risk due to the crisis caused by coronavirus. This means that they face challenges such as a loss or reduction of income, inability to buy food and hygiene items, as well as a lack of support during distance learning.
The assessment of the social impact of the coronavirus crisis in Montenegro was funded by UNDP and UNICEF and was conducted with the technical support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNHCR, and the UN Office’s human rights adviser.
Numerous partners contributed to the collection of data at the community level, such as the Ministry of Justice, the Office of the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms, the Police Directorate, the Council for Civil Control of Police Work, Centres for Social Work in Niksic, Mojkovac, Berane, Cetinje, Kotor, and Bar, "Grabovac" Home for the Elderly, "Ljubovic" Centre for Children and Youth, Pljevlja Day Care Centre for Children with Disabilities and Persons with Disabilities, as well as the Red Cross of Montenegro.
A number of non-governmental organizations provided their support during the collection of data for this research – NGO Association of Youth with Disabilities, NGO Phiren Amenca, NGO Centre for Roma Initiatives, "Ljubovic" Centre for Children and Youth, NGO Civic Alliance, NGO Juventas, NGO Parents, NGO Family Centre, NGO Centre for Children's Rights, NGO Special Olympics, NGO Pedagogical Centre of Montenegro, NGO Centre for Women's Rights, NGO SOS Line Podgorica, NGO SOS Line Niksic, NGO Safe Women's House, NGO Queer Montenegro, NGO LGBT Forum Progress, NGO Spektra and NGO Stana.