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News 03 Jun 15

Ministry Raises Alarm Over Child Poverty in Serbia

After a ministry warned that about 400,000 children in Serbia live on the verge of poverty, NGOs say the number could be even higher as many of the worst hit familes remain invisible to social services.

Sasa Dragojlo
BIRN
Belgrade
Photo By Vladimir Pustovit / Flickr

Dragan Vulevic, from Serbia's Ministry of Labour and Social affairs, says about 390,000 children in Serbia - about 23 percentage of the nation's children - live in families that receive child allowance as social support.

“If we know that the child allowance is conditioned on... very low income, we can conclude that a significant number of children are on the verge of poverty,” Vulevic told Serbia's B92 TV.

NGOs warn that the true number of children in Serbia living in poverty in reality could be even higher, as many families do not actually seek benefits, due to complicated application procedures for child allowance. These families thus remain invisible.

Sasa Stefanovic, director of the Network of Organizations for Children of Serbia, has urged the state to simplify the procedure and make social care for children more available.

“Procedures are too complicated and our proposal is that the procedures for child allowance are simplified, especially because families with children are at a higher risk of poverty, and many do not realise they have a right to state aid,” Stefanovic said.

Stefanovic said the issue children in poor families are facing is not just poverty, but violence, neglect and alcoholism often deriving from their family's low social status.

“The help and care must be on the ground where the major role is played by local social services, non-governmental organizations and also the state itself,” Stefanovic said.

Currently, Serbian child allowance is 20 euros a month per child under the age of 19. However, the limit for the allowance is set at four children, so larger families cannot receive more then 80 euros per month regardless of how many children they have.

The Network of Organizations for Children of Serbia in April proposed amendments to the Law on Social protection to improve the situation of socially invisible vulnerable families, and consequently children.

The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Affairs has started working on amendments to the law and formed a special working group. However, it is not yet clear when the ministry will come out with a draft proposal.

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