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How do centralised services impact on children? Child Hub held a Policy Forum to explore challenges and opportunities of decentralisation


On 10-11 May 2016 Child Protection Hub for South East Europe organised a Policy Forum on Impact of Decentralisation on Social Services in Vienna, Austria. The event brought together about 60 policy makers, local authorities, representatives of academia and NGOs from 14 countries. The participants worked hard for two days analysing decentralisation processes and their impact on social services, exploring lessons learnt with particular reference to service for vulnerable children, exchanging information and exploring priorities for future reforms in the interests of children across the region.

To start the forum, Mr. Robert Zeiner, Director of International Programmes and Projects of Austrian Development Cooperation expressed their support to the Child Protection Hub and highlighted the outstanding results the Hub has achieved since the launch in January 2015.

Mr. Jean-Claude Legrand, UNICEF CEE/CIS Regional Child Protection Advisor, provided an overview of UNICEF contributions to social welfare reform in South East Europe and stressed that “social work is an accountability for all of us, not just social workers”.

During the first day researchers presented issues and barriers, but also the good practices from the decentralisation process of the social welfare system of tfYROM, Serbia and Albania. “It is not only the issue of funds, but of professional capacity that hinders the design of decentralisation processes in Serbia”, mentioned  Ms. Gordana Matkovic, Program Director of Centre for Social Policy, Serbia.

The forum also included group work, where participants discussed functioning of decentralisation, how to challenge inequalities, build effective partnerships, and make sure we are putting children first.

The forum regularly highlighted the importance of building stronger connections and improving professional capacities of all the stakeholders involved in social services, and the Child Protection Hub is glad to provide support on this. Still, as one of the participant mentioned, "even if a social worker doesn't have qualifications, but has their heart and mind on the case, they can achieve a lot".

The Forum report will be published shortly with more information on the outcomes. Meanwhile more details and photos are available on our Facebook page.