Belgrade, 30 November 2017 - UNICEF and the National Organization of Persons with Disabilities (NOOIS) presented a comprehensive analysis of the situation of children with disabilities and their rights in Serbia.
At the conference, which was attended by representatives of state and civil society institutions, decision makers, parents’ associations and representatives of international organisations, it was emphasised that children with disabilities face many difficulties and obstacles in exercising their rights, despite the fact that the Republic of Serbia has ratified all relevant international conventions, adopted strong laws and policies, and made progress in the development of inclusive services.
The Situation Analysis focuses on the situation of children with disabilities in six areas: discrimination, poverty and social security, education, social protection and family living, health care, and protection against violence and abuse.
Based on the findings, clear guidelines and recommendations for further advocating have been formulated, as well as the guidelines for the development of new strategic and legal acts in this field, in particular for the improvement of policies in the fields of education, health, social inclusion, poverty reduction and protection of children against violence.
“Today’s meeting is held on the eve of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This is an excellent opportunity to start a dialogue among all relevant actors - governmental and non-governmental bodies, the EU, professionals in the social welfare, health care, and education systems, as well as parents, caregivers, and children – about how to provide equal opportunities so children with disabilities, as well as all other children in the country, can lead dignified and productive lives,” said Michel Saint- Lot, UNICEF Representative in Serbia.
Ivanka Jovanovic, Executive Director of the National Organization of Persons with Disabilities believes that the social security of families with children with disabilities is very important, as these families often have higher living costs and fewer earning opportunities.
Between 25% and 47% of children with disabilities have experienced violence.
"Children with disabilities are doubly marginalised, both in terms of disability and age, while their families are often additionally exposed to a risk of poverty. The consequences can be multi-layered for children who become exposed to various forms of discrimination, as well as for families, which may be additionally burdened with increased costs of disability. These are issues that every responsible society has to resolve," said Ivanka Jovanovic.
The European Union and UNICEF work together to promote respect for human rights as well as to increase the efficiency and inclusiveness of public services for vulnerable groups, including children with disabilities.
"It is our goal that people understand the importance of this issue and we must encourage communities to embrace children with disabilities. A renewed commitment of all actors is necessary to bring to life the vision of a world where children can be children and can safely live, play, learn, develop their full potential, and make the most of all existing opportunities. The EU will continue supporting initiatives for support and protection based on child rights and in their best interest in the future,” said Nicolas Bizel, Head of Operations for Justice, Home Affairs and Civil Society at the EU Delegation in Serbia.
22% of children with disabilities are in the alternative care system, while 72% are in residential care.
Key findings of the research:
• 45% of parents of children with disabilities state that they or their children have experienced some kind of insult, humiliation or harassment due to their child's disability;
• In 24% of families, one of the parents had to give up work to care for their child, and parents often encountered lack of support by their employers when it comes to additional obligations related to child care. In Serbia, there is no financial assistance to safeguard children with disabilities and their families from poverty;
• Half of children with disabilities attend schools in a segregated environment, and most parents perceive these experiences as more positive than mainstream education;
• 22% of children with disabilities are in the alternative care system, while 72% are in residential care;
• Child support services within a family setting (home assistance, day care, personal assistant) are generally not available to children with disabilities and their families;
• The quality of healthcare services is rated as high or of very high quality by 60% of parents, while 32% of parents believe that services are of low quality, and 6% say they’re of very low quality.
• 16% of citizens and 18% of pupils think that discrimination against some groups is acceptable.
• Between 25% and 47% of children with disabilities have experienced violence. They are also four times more likely of being physically abused by their peers, as well as three times more likely of becoming victims of sexual violence.
The Situation Analysis of Children with Disabilities is an integral part of the "Protecting children from violence and promoting social inclusion of children with disabilities in the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey" project, funded by the European Union, and implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, and UNICEF.
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.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/serbia