September 2, 2021 | Thursday

Persons living in vulnerable situations expected to benefit from social services

For this month’s interview, we discussed with Durim Gashi – project manager of “Enhancing Provision of Social Services for Most Vulnerable Groups in Kosovo, in Response to Covid-19,” who told us in more details about the project.

Can you tell us more about the project?

The project “Enhancing Provision of Social Services for Most Vulnerable Groups in Kosovo, in Response to Covid-19” is implemented by Save the Children Sweden in affiliation with Save the Children International (SCI) Country Office in Kosovo (SCIK) and funded by European Union Office in Kosovo, on a duration between December, 15th 2021 – December, 15th 2023. The entire project is based on three main intervention areas: Enhancing availability of and accessibility to social services; Strengthening the capacities to enhance the adequacy, effectiveness, efficiency, affordability and quality of the social services; Awareness raising and advocacy. Moreover, the project is expected to improve the overall inclusiveness of children, adults and families in need, as well as affirmation and sensitiveness of gender equality, equal access and opportunities, economic and social empowerment, and other critical issues. By advocating and promoting the rights of women and girls, persons with disabilities, children, elderly, people living in poverty, and all other categories of beneficiaries at social risk, while providing sub-grants, the project team aims to create better socio-economic conditions for every citizen of the country.

How is the situation with Public Social Services in Kosovo?

The social services system in Kosovo is overstretched, poorly funded, and unable to cope with the growing demands of people in need and vulnerable groups. The budget insufficiency for social services will become a growing problem as financial crisis is always a risk following epidemics like COVID-19. During 2019, for example, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare allocated approximately 4,1 million EUR to social services representing less than 1% of the total budget of the Ministry. Until 2009 provision of social services has been provided by Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare through Centres for Social Work. Yet, since the decentralization of social services there are uncertainty of responsibilities between local and central level, which led to a lack of necessary services for most vulnerable group, additionally basic services has been covered by local NGOs licensed for provision of social services. Based on an Analysis of social services in Kosovo conducted by Save the Children in Kosovo, more than 40% of vulnerable groups reported that they received services only by NGOs; in addition, around 20% of their budget (of NGOs) is reported to be covered by local authorities.

Who are the direct beneficiaries of the project?

Girls, boys, women and men living in vulnerable situations, especially those at socio economic risk, victims of violence against women and/or children, domestic violence or trafficking, elders, children and adults living with disability are considered as the main target groups for support, meanwhile the same are targeted within the action. Respectively, through the financing of third parties through sub-grants schemes, we aim to reach more than 6,000 direct beneficiaries, which will receive services from supported local NGOs. The selected NGOs for receiving support from the project are licensed for provision of such social services, while they are considered as main service providers in the majority of municipalities throughout the country.

What are the main difficulties vulnerable groups currently face in Kosovo?

Main difficulties faced by those community members are related with their well-being, social protection and inclusion; lack of professional and sustainable services for specific categories increase the exclusion towards education, social integration and employment. Due to the lack of inclusive education, Children with disabilities are forced to stop their education, which additionally hinders their chances of enhancing their work skills and seeking independent living. Their vulnerabilities have increased as their access to quality education has been affected by the lack of adaptive virtual education platforms during the pandemic. Increased socio-economic vulnerability during the past months marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to a substantive increase in domestic violence against women and girls, who are already affected by ongoing gender discrimination, thus restricting their everyday social, political, and economic opportunities.

What will be the role of the NGO-s engaged in the project and how will you monitor their work?  

More than 45 licensed local NGOs will provide direct social and family services to the most vulnerable groups in Kosovo, target beneficiaries of the project. Services provided by selected NGOs (30 in the first round and more than 15 on the second round) are focused on provision of day care and residential services for children and adults in need, home based services for persons living vulnerable situations and services for victims of domestic violence and trafficking. In addition to the financial support on provision of such services, Save the Children in Kosovo will increase the capacities of social service providers through trainings on specific areas of their work, including, but not limited to project management, child safeguarding and gender mainstreaming. Our approach towards selected organizations is based on principles of partnership, therefore Save the Children in Kosovo will monitor those NGOs through mentoring via providing tools for enhancing their capacities and providing support on coping with the scope of social services on regular basis, while our team will provide support on thematic, financial, procurement, monitoring & evaluation, communications & visibility procedures on regular basis.

In what ways will the project contribute to sustainability?

In addition to supporting direct social services through NGOs, the project entails a participative approach with its stakeholders, aiming to empower the persons and families in need, with special attention women and girls, children and adults with disability, to advocate for the improvement of their welfare. Their involvement in campaigning and networking will be coupled with advocacy for sustainable decision-making to regulate the legal infrastructure for financing social services in Kosovo. Currently, Save the Children in Kosovo, jointly with governmental and non-governmental institutions, is contributing to drafting the Law on Social and Family Services aiming at ensuring that the Law will guarantee adequate services and inclusion of all vulnerable groups in Kosovo. The project also has planned a designated support to finalise the funding formula for the Specific Grant for Social Services and support the adoption of the amended Law on Local Government Financing, which would guarantee adequate financial support for the Centres for Social Welfare at local level. The development of evidence-based policies and strategic reforms of the social protection system will ultimately contribute to project sustainability. The project also foresees to assess the needs and provide tailored capacity building for social workers in country, aiming at increasing the quality of the services they provide to project beneficiary groups. The involvement of all these project stakeholders in various stages of the project cycle will contribute to its sustainability, as the trustful relationship will give them ownership over the project outputs.