When they leave the Home, the children are still alone

The Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Naida Nišić, told "Vijesta" that there are no licensed providers of supported housing services and that the state plans to develop that service. She said that it is necessary to reorganize the work of centers for social work, to further harmonize domestic regulations with the Istanbul Convention...

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Naida Nišić, Photo: Luka Zekovic
Naida Nišić, Photo: Luka Zekovic
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

Only in two municipalities, Bijela Polje and Danilovgrad, centers for social work for young people who leave the "Youth" Home in Bijela after leaving that institution provide housing with support. There are no licensed service providers for such a service.

This, among other things, was told to "Vijesta" by the Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Naida Nišić, and added that the Ministry is planning further development of this service in other municipalities.

"The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSS) issues licenses for activities in the field of social and child protection. Currently, 118 service providers are licensed. For the supported housing service, which is a service from the group of support services for living in the community, there are no licensed service providers", said Nišić.

Children's home "Mladost" in Bijela is a child protection institution where children are accommodated.

Regional foster care centers

She also announced the establishment of regional centers for family placement and foster care. Through foster care, temporary housing is provided for children whose family circumstances are disrupted. Statistics indicate a developed kinship system, but the Department of Social Welfare has repeatedly pointed to the need to develop and increase the number of non-kinship foster families.

People who are interested in foster care go through an assessment process, a training program, get a license for two years, and during that time, experts from social work centers accompany foster families and provide them with the necessary support.

"MRSS envisaged the establishment of three regional centers for family accommodation-foster care. "The foster care centers will take over part of the work that is now performed by the centers for social work, which are related to assessment, preparation, providing support to foster families, as well as the promotion of foster care in Montenegro," said Nišić.

Centers for social work need reorganization

In Montenegro, 13 centers for social work and 12 regional units were established, covering 25 municipalities. At the end of 2022, 428 social workers were employed in centers for social work. Nišić said that the CSR reform in the past ten years has led to certain changes, but also that the demands placed on the centers have also increased, "especially in the area of ​​administrative work".

"The number of employed workers, especially workers working directly with users, is insufficient to provide quality support to users. This indicates that it is necessary to take urgent measures to reorganize the work of centers and redistribute workers in order to even out the workload of professional workers. Professional workers spend too much time on records and documentation," said Nišić.

She added that case managers have a large number of cases and that this affects the quality of their work.

Harmonize domestic regulations with the Istanbul Convention

Montenegro ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence 10 years ago, fulfilled a number of obligations, but the state has not fully implemented the Istanbul Convention, says Nišić.

"The Istanbul Convention recognizes a number of specialized services - legal and psychological counseling, financial assistance, housing, education, training, employment assistance, providing assistance with individual and collective complaints, crisis centers, SOS lines, shelters, support for victims of sexual violence and protection and support for child witnesses of violence, but numerous such services and users of those services are not recognized by the Montenegrin Law on Social and Child Protection", she said and added that the goal of the Ministry of Social Affairs and All other laws regulating the area of ​​protection against gender-based violence, be changed as soon as possible.

"In this sense, when we recognize beneficiaries such as LBTIQ and victims of sexual violence, when we introduce a new allowance for victims of violence when divorce proceedings are underway, when we recognize crisis centers for victims of sexual violence... then access to these services will to be better for all our users," she said.

MRSS previously announced that the state will open a shelter for victims of violence, but also a crisis center for victims of sexual violence, shelters for beggars, men...

"By ratifying the Istanbul Convention, Montenegro committed itself to a number of obligations that it must fulfill, among which are the establishment of shelters and crisis centers. The standards are very high, we must have one shelter for every 200.000 inhabitants, especially for victims of gender-based violence, child victims of human trafficking, male victims of human trafficking, homeless people, victims of sexual exploitation and especially crisis centers for victims of sexual violence. It is also necessary to have shelters for girls who are victims of forced marriages. All shelters and crisis centers must be territorially distributed. Currently, there is no shelter or crisis center for any category of victims of gender-based violence in the south of Montenegro," Nišić said, adding that large financial resources are needed for this.

As she said, the fact that the state wants to participate in the establishment of shelters for some of the categories of victims does not mean that the help of the NGO sector is not needed.

"Currently, shelters for victims of domestic violence are run by the non-governmental sector and they really provide this service in the best way. Unfortunately, the need for accommodation in shelters is great and we currently lack accommodation capacities, especially in the south and in the north, because the shelters are in the central part of the country. Also, we believe that the establishment of crisis centers for victims of sexual violence is a particularly sensitive issue... we want to be careful when adopting standards, by-laws, protocols, as well as personnel who would provide services in the crisis center. I especially emphasize the need to establish a shelter for victims of human trafficking. We have made great strides in that direction, and in the coming year we will be able to give this category a boost as well," she said.

Temporary shelter in "Ljubović".

The facility within the Center for Children and Youth "Ljubović" in Podgorica will temporarily be a shelter for child victims of human trafficking, and in the coming period, MRSS will also work on finding an adequate permanent solution, said Nišić.

At the end of 2022, the Government of Dritan Abazović made the decision to renovate one building in the grounds of the "Ljubović" Center and to have a shelter there for child victims of human trafficking.

Due to the fact that by placing children who are victims, they would potentially be in the vicinity of the perpetrators of the criminal offense of human trafficking, UNICEF previously criticized such a decision of the Government.

Nišić told "Vijesta" that such a solution was the one that was the most effective and could meet the need for accommodation of children who are victims of human trafficking in the shortest possible time, that the victims will be physically separated and will not have contact with the users of other services at the JU Center "Ljubović ".

As she added, it is also important to carefully use the words "victim" and "perpetrator" when it comes to minors, "because we must also consider children who have committed certain criminal acts, or those who exhibit behavioral problems, as victims", because " most of them come from dysfunctional families where they themselves were victims of neglect or some form of violence".

A long process of reforming the disability system

Since 2008, when the Law on Professional Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) was adopted, when only a few dozen were employed, today there are about 3.700 PWDs employed in Montenegro whose employers use wage subsidies, but they are still on the unemployment register about 9.592.

"Which make up about 25 percent of the total number of unemployed persons in Montenegro. Also, their educational and age structure is not satisfactory", said Nišić and added that, bearing in mind the passage of time since the adoption of the law, the challenges in the field of professional rehabilitation, the amount and duration of the right to wage subsidies for the employment of PWDs, "which have recently been problematic from the aspect of lack of funds for these purposes", that law needs to be significantly improved.

In this sense, as she added, MRSS will consider the further development of professional rehabilitation, previously proposed models, but also the best practice in the field of professional rehabilitation, and will intensively continue work on the text of the law.

"Additionally... of particular importance is the preparation of the new Law on the Uniform Disability Expertise. "This is a reform law that entails the amendment of the entire set of laws, so expectations are high," said Nišić.

In the 2024 budget, 21,9 million euros are planned for the Fund for Professional Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities, of which 20 million euros will be earmarked for wage subsidies for employment.

Employers who hire PWDs are also entitled to grants for adapting workplaces and working conditions for PWDs, and for this subsidy, in the first half of 2023, 72.000 euros were paid.

When asked if it is a realistic scenario for PWDs in Montenegro to receive state support in adapting the space they live in, Nišić said that "we have a long process of reforming the disability system ahead of us": "Only when the state moves from a medical model to a model of needs, power we will consider the possibilities of adaptation of the space where PWDs live".

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