21:42 / 04.10.2021.

Author: Katja Miličić

Social welfare system overhaul aims for higher benefits and more oversight



Foto: Dnevnik / HTV

Croatia’s social welfare system is set to undergo an overhaul after multiple high-profile cases showed systemic problems and garnered heavy criticism.

The government has drafted a package of laws and three national plans that are now open to public comment. The goal of the reforms is to make the system better and more transparent.

"This is our way of introducing civilian oversight of the services we provide. We want to open the system and make it fully transparent. We want citizens to have access to all the information and data they need to show that we are truly open and transparent towards the beneficiaries of our services,” said Minister Josip Aladrović on Monday during a presentation of the reforms.

Among the issues the reforms will address is declining interest in fostering children.

“We want to offer adequate family care and better care overall through the foster care system. At the end of the day, this is the system that can really provide benefits to these children,” Aladrović said.

This is good news to Marina Hoblaj from Mursko Središće, a long-time foster parent. Her family has fostered 15 children over the past 12 years. She currently cares for five. However, she belong to a shrinking community of foster care providers. The government is hoping to give the system a boost by simplifying the process for becoming a foster parent and increasing foster family benefits. Hoblaj says this would make a bid difference for her foster kids, most of whom attend various sports activities outside of school, all of which cost extra.

“This way, we’d be able to afford more of this,” she says.

The reforms would also open 300 more jobs and create better oversight through a commission that would handle complaints lodged by the public. The system would also be reorganized to increase efficiency.

The fragmented system has proven to be ineffective and needs to be centralized to ensure uniform actions and better care for all beneficiaries across the country, Aladrović said.

However, not everyone is behind the idea of centralization. Antun Ilijaš, the head of the Chamber of Social Workers, says the changes will not make the system better, in fact, he claims it will be less effective.

Under the proposed changes, social workers would have less autonomy. The first package of bills is up for public comment. A second package is planned for next year.

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