Croatia updated its Action Plan on Deinstitutionalisation (DI). In December 2018, the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy published a document “Deinstitutionalisation, Transformation and Prevention of Institutionalisation 2018-2020” on its website. The new Operational Plan for Deinstitutionalisation of Children and Adults was a long-awaited regulation which was developed in 2017 in cooperation with the World Bank and was expected to be launched in July 2018.
The 2018-2020 Action Plan on DI will follow the 2011-2016 Master Plan completed in 2016 and extended until 2018. The purpose of the 2018-2020 plan is to continue the process of deinstitutionalisation for user groups who have already started this process and to expand the transition to other user groups to ensure regional equity and availability of services with the ultimate goal of social inclusion.
The new Action Plan will include continuity of the care reform such as inclusion of homes that were not included in the first Operational Plan, development of community-based social services and preventing new placements in the institutions in Croatia.
It will also introduce new measures and activities such as:
- Expanding the network of non-institutional services – regional equilibrium and accessibility
- Expanding the network of social service providers – regional equilibrium and accessibility
- Improving the quality of social services
- Adjusting the planning of financial resources from the state budget and EU funds with priorities for DI and transformation
- Harmonizing legal regulations to continue the process of deinstitutionalisation and transformation in Croatia
Furthermore, the 2018-2020 DI plan will address the following issues:
- Lack of adequate and relevant data about service providers and the actual needs of beneficiaries in the regional social plans;
- Lack of updates in the social services network during 2014-2018;
- Not reaching the goal for children and youth with behavioral problems under the 2011-2016(8) Master Plan. During 2014-2016, there was no significant reduction in the number of institutionalised children and young people
- Lack of early intervention services, psychosocial support and integration assistance for children with disabilities in almost all areas of the Republic of Croatia.
FICE Croatia, the Opening Doors national coordinator in Croatia welcomes the fact that deinstitutionalisation continues to be one of the priorities in the national policies for children and families. Specifically, 2018-2020 Action Plan finally recognizes prevention as one of the crucial elements in the process of DI which has been reflected in the title of a new Operational Plan. Its overall goal is to ensure further improvement in the quality of life of service users and for children to be living in a family environment. Under the 2018-2020 Action Plan on DI, new categories of beneficiaries have been also recognized, including homeless youth, victims of violence, victims of trafficking etc. There is sufficient attention given to the work of NGOs in the new Deinstitutionalisation Plan.
At the same time, the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign expresses concern over the possibility of realization of the new Action Plan in only two years (which was not realized in the last 8). Croatia must also return 70 million Euro of the loan received from the World Bank for the modernization of social welfare because the project was not implemented by 31 December 2018. There are also concerns over the efficiency of EU funding due to delays in using the EU funds for deinstitutionalisation reform. According to Ljiljana Ban, President of FICE Croatia and campaign’s national coordinator, “Although the Croatian government simplified application procedures for EU funding last year, the documentation for European Social Fund projects remains complicated and not in line with the GDPR. To pursue systemic implementation of the child protection reform, national authorities must ensure efficient use of the national and EU funds, as well as their effective oversight. Action should also be taken to ring fence funds from the national budget to ensure continuation of the EU- funded interventions after the end of the funding period.”