Lithuania: Minister of Social Security is misusing social care funds, the President says

Dalia Grybauskaitė

The President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė, has accused the Minister of Social Security and Labour Algimanta Pabedinskienė of misuse of funds for social care, and of delaying urgently needed reforms for children in institutional care.

A press release from the President’s cabinet of January 12, 2015 informed the public that the Ministry of Social Security and Labour had commissioned a study for 1.5 million euros, employing 14 of its own employees in the project. The study focused on labour market, taxes and social security and was not directly related to child care.

“There are clear examples of abuse by the civil service at the Ministry of Social Security and Labour. It is intolerable that civil servants turn their direct work into million-euro projects, while they themselves take part and receive money. The Minister must stop such money-making methods immediately,” said the President according to the online Lithuanian newspaper DELFI.

“While millions of social care funds are subtracted for a study unrelated to child care, children are locked up in institutions and denied their right to have a family” says Virginija Pleckeviciene of SOS Children’s Villages, National Coordinator of the Opening Doors Campaign in Lithuania.

Children in care are suffering because the Lithuanian system strongly relies on institutional care. “1.5 million euros could have been spent in a much more diligent way” Ms Pleckeviciene continued. “A comparative analysis we conducted, shows that an amount of 600,000 euros is enough to maintain 73 children in professional foster care services for one year.1.5 million euros would suffice for over 160 children in care”.

According to President Grybauskaitė, the children’s home in Putinas located in Marijampolė, Lithuania, costs 1800 euros per month per child. Which means 21600 euros a year for each child.

“Professional foster care would be a sustainable solution to institutional care” – said Ms Pleckeviciene – “but it is still non-existent in Lithuania”.

Professional foster care is one of the measures that should be approved with the Child Care Reform Act, which has been delayed since 2014 and is waiting for approval. The Minister, pressured by the scandal, promised to approve the reform in 2015 but she could not yet specify an exact date.

The President also called on Minister Pabedinskienė to involve more civil society organisations in provision services and promised to suspend the participation in the project activities of all the Ministry employees that earned extra money for conducting the above-mentioned study.