Government crisis measure threatens to place more children back into institutions

“This collective dismissal is illegal and unjustified by the economic crisis. Disadvantaged categories of people must be a priority even in these difficult conditions. They not only lack protection and help but they are also exposed to prostitution, trafficking, underground work. A rapid and legal intervention is necessary in order to stop reviving a 1990’s grave version of Romanian reality”, said Raluca Bratu, “Together for the future” Project Coordinator with World Vision Romania.

Many believe the measure will throw Romania’s social services back 20 years World Vision Romania and eight other NGOs from the Black Sea Coalition, which protects the rights of people living with AIDS and local governmental institutions working in the social services field, have taken a stand against the measure and distributed a statement to some 70 institutions. They addressed the statement to the Government, the Prime Minister cabinet, the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Protection, the National Authority for People with Disabilities, the League for Defending Human Rights in Romania and all the communal halls in Constanta County.

“The address emitted by the local representative of the Finance Ministry, the National Authority for Fiscal Administration, infringes upon the law”, reads the statement by the NGOs and asks for the observance of the rights of people with disabilities and others in need of care.

Many believe the measure will throw Romania’s social services back 20 years.

“What will happen when the State is forced to take back the HIV-positive children who will remain without personal carers?” rhetorically asked Dr. Rodica Matusa, president of the Hope Association for HIV-positive youth.

Every week we take more than seven or eight children from the natural family because the parents can’t feed them and ask for our help “NGOs, institutions and families made huge efforts to offer them quality services because they need special care and nobody wanted them to enter centres for people with disabilities. We will annul the progress made by the Romanian social services over the last 20 years”, said Dr. Matusa.

The Romanian Constitution stipulates special protection for disabled people. One of the protective measures consists of providing a personal carer for them, once a panel of experts decides the person is incapable of living independently, based on rigorous medical and psychosocial criteria. The personal carer can be a disabled person’s relative or a professional personal carer and is employed with an official contract. His salary is paid from the national budget and the local councils’ budgets and is derived from the VAT (value added) tax.

According to the General Directory for Social Assistance and Child Protection Constanta database at the end of June, some 2,380 people were registered as having a personal carer. Of these, 834 are children with severe disabilities or children living with HIV and AIDS; many of them in foster care.

For many of the personal carers this salary is the only income they are able to generate as the job requires round the clock attention and dedication.

“My wife and I took Alin in foster care, six years ago. We help him walk because he can’t walk alone; we watch him all the time, give him the medication from the psychiatrist and go for the medical examination every month. We love him. He became a part of our family but if we don’t receive the salary we will be forced to give him back to the State. We cannot afford to cover his medication and food…” said Nicolae Maxim, personal carer of a 21-year-old boy, with severe mental and physical disabilities. Nicolae has not received his salary for the last three months from the Cogealac hall.

Many personal carers who foster children with disabilities are expected to be forced to give up foster care altogether. The children will return to the crowded State-run centres for children with disabilities, which so many people have fought to close over the past 20 years. The social services system from Constanta County is already working beyond its capacity.

“Every week we take more than seven or eight children from the natural family because the parents can’t feed them and ask for our help. Our three centres for disabled children are over capacity with 10, 12 children in each one. We are confronted with more and more resignations from maternal carers”, says Roxana Onea, communications officer with the General Directory for Social Assistance and Child Protection Constanta.

In May 2010, 40 personal carers of World Vision’s young beneficiaries received notification about their future dismissal. Two of those who lost their jobs have confronted the Navodary hall, asking for their rights.

Background information

On December 31, 2009 the total number of people with disabilities registered in Romania was 681,558. Of these, 97.5% (664,409 persons) live in family care and / or live independently (non-institutionalised) and 2.5% (17,149 persons) live in residential institutions of social assistance for adults with disabilities coordinated by the National Authority for Persons with Disabilities.