Investing in Local Social Services – Round Table and “World café” Experience Sharing Event

Supporting the development of sustainable and quality social services in the local community according to the needs of the citizens, and exchange of experience and practices among municipalities, as Providers of Social Services, was the main topic of the event “Investing in Local Social Services”, held today at hotel Merriot.

Decentralization and modernization of community-based services is at the heart of the Social Protection Law (SPL) applied three years ago, and many new services have been established in personal and home care at local level, however they are geographical disparities and majority of municipalities and local governments are yet to be involved in this process.

The Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Jovanka Trencevska, emphasized that the development of local social services is a model that unites all stakeholders at the local level to be involved in community building. Therefore, local governments as the first among equals in the area where they operate together with their partners from civil society organizations are faced with the obligation to provide social services to their citizens.

“In support of this process, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy in the past period implemented activities to support municipalities in the preparation of local social plans, and additionally prepared a Manual for strengthening social protection capacity at the local level, Guidelines for the functioning of municipal councils for social protection, Manuals and Guidelines for the functioning of the social protection councils of the planning regions as well as the Guide for licensing of social service providers in the community. All these documents are prepared to facilitate and improve the process of development of social services in the community.” stressed Trencevska.

With support of various donors, 18 municipalities have developed, or are in the process of developing Local Social Plans, and additional 24 municipalities supported the development of new social service providers, of which 15 providers of assistance and care at home and one Center for daily stay of children with disabilities, 10 new service providers have been developed in the area of ​​assistance and care and leave of family care.

The representative from the Delegation of the European Union, Mr. Nafi Saracini, stressed that the EU support for the MLSP is big and will remain so in the future. He stressed that there are different methods of coordination in the Union in the field of social services, but the policies of the member states are individual and are guided by common principles. One of those principles is the principle that social assistance must be non-discriminatory, which means that it must be accessible where it is most needed, ie. on local level.

Deinstitutionalization and decentralization are key principles for successful reforms and the introduction of community based social services.

Saracini reminded that the EU supports the policies for youth employment and social dialogue at the local level, as well as provided direct support to the physical capacities of the centers for social work.

He announced that IPA 3 will provide support in the development and establishment of a successful monitoring and reporting system in the implementation of social services.

“In terms of European aid, the greatest progress is seen in the social sphere. I hope that the interest in promoting and improving social policies will remain, with the support of the EU.” stressed Saracini.

“Demir Kapija has been a strong supporter of the deinstitutionalization and decentralization of social services from the beginning. We are dedicated to developing social services for the needs of the community. In the future, we will support the already established services, and we will also develop new services, foreseen in the Local Social Plan. We plan for Demir Kapija to be one of the most developed centers for community based social services” said the mayor of the Municipality of Demir Kapija, Lazar Petrov.

“ZELS started to work more deeply with the municipalities in the sphere of social protection almost two and a half years ago. We develop plans, build municipal capacities, and provide various other services through various projects with donor assistance. It is very normal for municipalities to know best and fastest what is happening and what are the needs of their citizens. From there, we believe that functional decentralization is needed in the social sphere,” said Dusica Perišić, executive director of ZELS.

Daliborka Zlateva from the Association of Persons with Cerebral Palsy and Other Disabilities – Veles presented the social service “supported living” which has been operating in the municipality for half a year.

Zlateva shared that she wanted to work and do something similar for a long time, inspired by the concern of parents and loved ones of people with disabilities, and their biggest fear “what will happen to my child?”. Supported living services address such concerns for biological families.

“Now we have the opportunity through these reforms, supported by the EU and MTSP, to provide this kind of service, but a key factor for the establishment of community based social services are also the municipalities,” emphasized Zlateva.

The second part of the event, with participation of sixty representatives from municipalities and social service providers, was dedicated to experience exchange among representatives from 22 municipalities, following the “World Café” methodology. This is the first, of the planned three events, that will support local governments to map the local needs and existing social services, develop local social plans and new community based services, and identify social service providers and offer sustainability and further development of the grant-funded established services.

The event was organized by the EU-funded project “Supporting Modernization and De-institutionalisation of Social Services” together with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the European Delegation, in cooperation with ZELS.