Within the framework of the project “Protecting children from violence and promoting social inclusion of children with disabilities in Western Balkans and Turkey”, funded by the European Union and implemented by UNICEF, together with EDF, on 30th November 2016 at the Holliday Inn in Belgrade hotel NOOIS held one-day conference entitled: “Inclusive services for children with disabilities and their families”.
The conference was financially enabled EDF (European Disability Forum); selection of topics and the conference program are the result of a joint agreement NOOIS and EDF.
The Conference also served to announce of the start of the project “"Development of SitAn in Serbia", which will be implemented by NOOIS from November 2016 to October 2017, with financial support from UNICEF, country office Serbia.
In accordance with the concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as with the conclusions set out in the alternative and the initial report submitted to the Committee by the disability movement and the Republic Serbia, the goal of the conference was
to analyze the perspective of improving the position of one of the most marginalized social groups - children with disabilities, as well as to exchange practical experiences regarding the situation of children with disabilities in the four key areas: system of social protection, social support services for children with disabilities and their families, violence against children with disabilities and participation.
The conference was attended 64 representatives from various civil society organizations, from government institutions, independent human rights institutions and international organizations.
Among the civil society representatives at the conference were representatives of organizations of persons with disabilities, representatives of parent organizations and cross-disability organizations as well as representatives of organizations dealing with human rights and expert associations.
Also, the conference attended the representatives from the state sector – from the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social affairs - the Department for Protection of Persons with Disabilities and the Department of Social Protection, representatives of the Republic Institute for Social Protection, representatives of independent human rights institutions – The Republic Ombudsman’s Office and Commissioner for Protection of Equality and Ombudsman’s office.
From international organizations, attended by representatives of UNICEF CO Serbia, the representative of EU DEL Serbia and representatives of EDF.
DESCRIPTION AND CONFERENCE FLOW
Children with disabilities need comprehensive and flexible support in order to participate in society on equal terms with other children. Although significant improvements are made on the level of regulatory framework, children with disabilities are still facing significant difficulties regarding availability and quality of mainstream and specialized services. Also, violence is a daily reality for thousands of children across South-eastern Europe. Children with disabilities face prejudice, stigma and the severe discrimination and are often excluded from everyday public life.
The experts for the above- mentioned areas spoke about these topics and other challenges in the further development of support for children with disabilities and their families. Also, after the presentation of the experts, the participants worked in small groups discussing different key issues.
After the welcoming words of the representative of NOOIS, the following speakers delivered opening remarks: Mr. Vladimir Pesic, Assistent of Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social affairs, Mrs. Donata Vivanti Pagetti, Vice-president of EDF, Mrs. Severine Leonardi, Deputy Representative from UNICEF CO Serbia and Mr. Nicolas Bizel from the office of EU Delegation Serbia.
Within the first part of the seminar - Services for children with disabilities and their families, the following speakers addressed following topics:
1. Mrs. Biljana Zekavica from Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs – Social care reform and services for children with disabilities and their families
2. Mrs.Lela Veljkovic from Republic Institute for Social Protection - Development of intensive family support services
3. Children with disabilities – who presented her own experience in the field of education, everyday life and the support she receives by teaching assistants and family support services
4. Mr. Marko Milanovic, expert on the project - Further development of social care system
After the first set of presentations the participants worked in three small groups that were facilitated by expert speakers. After the workshops the participants discussed in plenary sessions and presented the conclusions from the small groups.
In the afternoon session of the conference, within second part of the seminar - Challenges for children with disabilities and their families, the following speakers addressed following topics:
1. Mrs. Donata Vivanti Pagetti, Vice-president of EDF - who spoke from the perspective of UN
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and from his own experience
2. Mrs. Veronika Išpanović - Violence against children with disabilities
3. Mrs. Nataša Raičević from NVO GRIG - Participation of children with disabilities
4. Mrs. Svetlana Vlahović and Mrs.Vesna Petrović from parents associations - Challenges for community living of children with disabilities – parent’s perspective
Also, after this block, the participants worked in three small groups that were facilitated by expert speakers. After the workshops the participants discussed in plenary sessions and presented the conclusions from the small groups.
The conference was closed Mrs. Ivanka Jovanović, Executive director of NOOIS, as well as representatives of EDF, Mrs. Donata Vivanti Pagetti, Vice-president of EDF and Mr. Ernesto Zaccaria, EDF coordinator.
After the conference, as a result of working in small groups, expert speakers have done recommendations by areas.
Area - Social care reform and services for children with disabilities and their families:
1. To enable the continuation of intensive adjustment of the social protection system of the Republic of Serbia to the best interests of the child;
2. Ensure the continuation of the reform process to improve the system of social protection and support for children with disabilities and their families through: systematic approach to needs assessments, planning, coordination, monitoring and evaluation of services which should respond to the needs of specific users
3. Provide further balanced and sustainable development of community services
4. It is necessary to intensify the process of transformation of institutions for children and youth in service providers, in addition to finding solutions for new employment of missing personnel (due to the current prohibition of employment in the public sector);
5. It is necessary to put emphasis on the establishment of intensive support services to families and children at risk of relocation;
6. It is necessary to improve the system of foster care, in order to return to its original concept and to ensure that a child is separated from his/ her family as short as possible;
7. Facilitate the licensing procedure for social welfare organizations that provide services to children and youth with disabilities
Area - Development of intensive family support services
1. Intensive family support services should include activities of counseling and psychological support to families on the acceptance of diagnosis, a realistic attitude towards their child's capacities, understanding the child's needs and the development of knowledge and skills to adequately respond to them.
2. It is important that parents be informed about all rights and services in different systems and know how to achieve them, but it is also very important to connect parents with a network of support in the community, so that the whole family would be socially involved.
3. In order to increase the availability of services for families, it is necessary to define clear and simple procedures for obtaining services, informing families and educating NGO’s about intensive family support services, making services available evenly throughout Serbia and financially be supported from the national and local levels.
4. The child needs to grow and develop in their natural environment, according to their potential, to improve the functioning of the family as a whole and that the family is not socially isolated and parents exposed to burnout in the parent role.
Area - Participation of children with disabilities
1. Organize a system of participation, with clear recommendations - who is responsible, at what level, to what extent and within which the system
2. Use good practice examples as models for further improvement
3. Encourage early involvement of children - through timely diagnosis, appropriate interventions and capacity building at the earliest age
4. Provide operation support services for good communication with the system, in situations where an assistant is required
5. Empower NGO’s which are resources to strengthen the capacity of parents
6. Strengthen the capacity of all stakeholders in all sectors that come into contact with children
7. Clearly know the rights and services for the adequate reference to them
8. Ensure intersectoral cooperation and networking system, so that the child could move across the all spheres, without obstacles
9. To provide an individual approach to each child
10. Provide different kinds of support for the promotion of participation
Area - Violence against children with disabilities
1. Supporting and empowering parents to take care of the child through the school of parenting, home care services, counselling development, mobile teams
2. Training of health workers on recognizing and responding to violence against children with disabilities (special protocol healthcare system)
3. Review existing protocols for the protection of children from violence (General and Specific Protocol) in a way that children with developmental disorders / disabilities are protected from all forms of violence in the family and if the social welfare institutions
4. Strengthen support for parents of children with disabilities through greater financial support, family support services, day care services, respite services for parents, etc.
5. Develop an emergency foster care services for children with disabilities in situations where it was necessary to relocate the child from the family because of the violence
6. Empowering parents and children themselves with disabilities for self-representation (Parents Association, Clubs for children and young people)