The social and child protection system needs much greater commitment from decision makers at the highest levels

The executive director of Juventas, Ivana Vojvodić, warned that in addition to poverty, young people in the Western Balkans face numerous other challenges.

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From the round table, Photo: PR Center
From the round table, Photo: PR Center
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

The system of social and child protection in Montenegro needs much greater commitment from decision makers at the highest levels, especially when it comes to young people at risk of social exclusion, it was said during the round table "Availability of social services to young people at risk in the Western Balkans".

The event was organized by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Juventas as part of the end of the second phase of the project "Civil society organizations in the Western Balkans and their role in the provision of social services and prevention of social exclusion", which was financially supported by the Balkan Network for the Development of Civil Society.

During this phase of the project, they dealt with the topic of the availability of social services to young people at risk of social exclusion in the Western Balkans, which was consolidated in the study.

The executive director of Juventas, Ivana Vojvodić, warned that in addition to poverty, young people in the Western Balkans are faced with numerous other challenges, such as insufficient quality education, mismatch between education and the labor market, political uncertainty, and the lack of a clear social perspective, it was reported from PR Center.

She noted that as part of regional cooperation, they did a mapping that showed how far from the desired state the required interventions are in all areas.

"There is almost a complete lack of services for children who use drugs, children with mental health challenges, children whose parents use drugs or alcohol, or whose parents are serving a prison sentence, while for children and young people who have experience of living on the streets , young people who use PAS, young people who were under institutional protection and numerous other categories, very limited support options", Vojvodić said.

According to her, the situation outside the larger areas is even more complicated.

Vojvodić mentioned that for many young people at risk, non-governmental organizations are the key point of support.

"Even though NGOs in Montenegro have invested funds to be licensed and meet all the requirements and standards prescribed by the competent institutions, at this moment none of them have sustainable support from the state," pointed out Vojvodić.

The State Secretary in the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, Darko Stojanović, said that social and child protection services should, above all, respond to the needs of users to the highest degree, while respecting human rights and dignity.

He said that the state continuously undertakes the obligation to improve the services offered to young people at risk, according to the PR Center.

"Children and young people are our future and we are all obliged as individuals and as a society to recognize and respond to their needs and create the best possible conditions for the life of children and young people," Stojanović said.

He pointed out that they will continue to implement projects through partnership cooperation that will go in the direction of protecting the best interests of children and young people.

The executive director of the Center for the Development of Non-Governmental Organizations (BCSDN), Zorana Marković, said that two large regional projects were supported in Montenegro, one of which was awarded to the NGO Juventas.

According to her, nearly 700 euros were provided for the implementation of the project, and over 350 euros were provided for small grants intended for the countries of the region.

"We believe that in this way we managed to a certain extent to support the civil society in the region, but it is important to note that through regional projects we enabled the connection of the NGO sector", said Marković.

On the first panel "Ongoing reforms in the social and child protection system - the effects of the protection of young people at risk", which was organized as part of the round table, Marija Ružić Stajović from the NGO Juventas said that the social and child protection system in Montenegro is the most important system of a society, which tends to be advanced and cohesive and without which other systems in society cannot function well.

"The system of social and child protection in Montenegro needs much greater commitment from decision-makers at the highest levels, especially when it comes to young people at risk of social exclusion," Ružić Stajović assessed.

She said that the creation of social policy must be a process that is focused on the human being - human centered design, while the approach to creation must be holistic and carried out in close cooperation with other relevant sectors.

Ružić Stajović pointed out that it is extremely important to enable real decentralization and pluralism of social services, which indicates the importance of strengthening cooperation and dividing the responsibilities of the national and local levels of management.

Also, as she added, professional workers and all professionals in social work must participate more actively in decision-making processes, especially those who work as field workers. In addition, in order to create a policy that really meets the needs of the most vulnerable, the user for whom the policy is being written must be involved in its creation.

Ružić Stajović noted that the reform of the social and child protection system in the past ten years has succeeded in bringing numerous innovations and positive development steps, but this process needs to be accelerated and intensified when it comes to all categories of the vulnerable, especially children and young people.

"Prevention is perhaps our weakest link in the system, and the important advances we have made in this regard are being slowed down and made impossible due to a lack of standards, procedures or other administrative problems," Ružić Stajović assessed.

According to her, what is definitely a recommendation is that the Government of Montenegro in the coming period take key steps in the implementation of the SDZ system reform in such a way that the decentralization of the social and child protection system becomes a priority for decision makers in this area.

Ana Majko from ARSIS Albania, speaking about the shortcomings in support for young people in that country, said that they have prepared a strategy that places emphasis on providing support to young people at risk, but that it still does not provide the financial resources that municipalities need.

"What we propose is to strengthen cooperation so that local authorities get the support of the central government. It is important that we devote time and resources to the development of action plans and to determine the priorities of the services that will be intended for that target group," said Majko.

Also, as she added, it is important that with the European Strategy for Youth, she sees how the involvement of young people in the development of policies and initiatives in the community can be improved and professionalized.

According to Majko, it is necessary to give models to municipalities so that they can program youth services.

Nebojša Đurasović from Association Prevent from Serbia said that young people at risk are only mentioned in the National Strategy for Youth.

Speaking about the sustainability of services provided by civil society organizations for youth at risk, he said that civil society organizations can improve the position of marginalized groups and provide services to all those who have not been provided certain services by state institutions.

Đurasović said that his organization is trying to standardize the new service that they have introduced in the local protection system, that is, the introduction of a field associate.

According to him, NGOs try to provide support through medium-term projects, which is not sustainable.

"Sustainability is impossible without the support of the state or some other donors. Also, it is necessary to change the regulation itself, because in order to be partners, we have to include strategy and action plans in various areas of social protection", said Đurasović.

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