Indicators for early identification of poverty of school-age children presented

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Ministry for Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy presented on 20 September at the Ministry premises in Zagreb, the indicators for early identification of poverty of school-age children (from 7 - 18 years of age) and their families and offered them for public discussion and adoption. 

Child poverty indicators were identified within the Croatia - France twinning project Together against child poverty funded by the European Union.
„Child poverty and transmission of poverty across generations produce significant consequences, not only for those concerned, but for the overall society“- stressed Marija Pletikosa, State Secretary for Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy, beneficiary country Project Leader. “By developing new methods and tools to assess the risk of poverty on one hand, and by introducing effective prevention programs on the other hand, it is possible to ensure long-term positive outcomes for the most vulnerable population, and thus build an intergenerational fairer society.”
Indicators for at-risk-of poverty assessment, relevant for children and families in Croatia, are a result of research conducted by the Ministry’s project team, in cooperation with French experts and the GfK public opinion survey agency. The research was conducted with the aim of collecting data on at-risk-of poverty indicators from social workers, school personnel and medical doctors from different regions of Croatia who, based on their work experience, are able to identify families and children at risk of poverty.
On the basis of focus group discussions held in Zagreb, Rijeka, Osijek and Split, gathering a total of 45 participants, a Checklist, i.e. a Questionnaire for the identification of risk of poverty was created. Current working version of the Questionnaire consists of quantitative information such as number of persons in a household, income of all household members etc., and of qualitative information such as marital status of persons in a household, household assets, availability of cultural, sport and entertainment events and the like.
The research showed that the risk of poverty is best predicted by those indicators which refer to household income and by parameters such as employment, indebtedness and socio-economic status of a person, while household assets and characteristics hold third and fourth place. Indicators which regard children themselves, such as their appearance, behaviour, school results and participation in extracurricular activities, come last.
The Questionnaire itself and the results of the focus group survey were presented by Ivana Lučev, head of project component Development of operational tools for targeted social assistance within the Ministry; Christian Moutier, French expert and member of the project team, former director of the Family Allowances Fund of the Val-de-Marne Department, nearby Paris; and by Tamara Kraus, GfK research advisor.
“As such, the questionnaire should be integrated into the information database of the Ministry, to be used by decision-makers in identifying the risk of poverty in its earliest phase and for timely response of social services” – said Christian Moutier, member of the Project team. “The questionnaire is intended for social workers, but will also be offered to educational and health services providers - who are in direct contact with the population at risk of poverty and who can benefit from it to objectively determine the risk of poverty for a certain family or a child, with the aim of preventing this from occurring”.
After the public debate on the poverty indicators, a round table was conducted on Challenges of social services: Activities of the project ‘Together against child poverty’, in which Croatian and French Project team members presented project achievements in the first nine months since its launch in January this year; and indicated further stages in the Project implementation ending in July 2018.
Ivana Lučev from the Ministry’s project team and French expert Christian Moutier presented the results of the survey on the use of social benefits and services that was conducted in social welfare centres in 13 Croatian cities. The aim of this survey was to assess the extent to which families and children living at risk of poverty use social programmes and services, and to what extent they use cash benefits; as well as to assess their satisfaction with the social welfare system as a whole. An initial overview of social welfare beneficiaries’ opinion on their satisfaction with the provided services and with the efficiency of social work was obtained.

According to answers obtained from 316 social welfare beneficiaries in total, the majority was mostly satisfied with the usefulness of the information received services, 80,5% of them. Most of the dissatisfaction was expressed regarding the amount of cash benefits, 33% of the beneficiaries, while social services, e.g. - home assistance, psychosocial support, inclusion of children in education programmes, stay, organised housing etc. - are mostly underused. Only 2-4% of beneficiaries ask for social services, apart from cash benefits. Possible explanation for such a small percentage of social services demand lies in the expressed beneficiaries’ opinion that social workers need to alleviate from performing the administrative tasks, and devote their time to social support to beneficiaries.   
Marijan Gašparac, Senior Advisor for SocSkrb, Dept. of organizational, IT and infrastructure support within the Ministry and Gilles Kounowski, Director of the Department for European and International Relations & Cooperation from the French National Family Allowances Fund (CNAF), reviewed the evolution of social welfare information and management system of the Ministry – the SocSkrb database, which needs to be upgraded for monitoring and evaluation of social programs and for timely provision of services and prevention of social exclusion of families and children at risk of poverty.
Carole Duché from the Family Allowances Fund (CAF) of the Department of Yvelines, nearby Paris, additionally highlighted the efforts invested in upgrading the SocSkrb application. She suggested that the Social Reports done by social workers, and entered in the SocSkrb application in the narrative form, should be coded and shaped into the Standardized Social Evaluation Form, aligned with the indicators, allowing the collection and search of the entered data, their analysis and evidence-based planning of social services and programs in the community.
Presented activities are part of the EU-funded project Strengthening institutional capacity in social welfare system to improve social welfare targeting and reducing poverty – worth EUR 1,1 million with the aim to strengthen institutional capacities of social welfare system for early identification and timely provision of social services to families and children at risk of poverty. The project is being implemented by the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy in cooperation with the Government of the French Republic. Implementing partner of the Project is Expertise France, a French agency for international technical assistance.  

For more information about the Project, please consult Together against child poverty project pages. 

PHOTO: Sanjin Kaštelan / Expertise France