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Photograph: iper.org.me

The Ministry of Social Policy and Youth in 2015 implemented a number of measures and activities to help the most vulnerable social groups, of which the best known is the write-off of household debts in the amount of up to HRK 35,000 for destitute citizens. The outgoing year will also be remembered for a new family act that was suspended by the Constitutional Court.

The Constitutional Court suspended the Family Act in January after non-governmental organisations, including B.a.b.e. and In the Name of the Family, filed constitutional complaints describing the law as poor and contrary to the Constitution.

After that, the parliament adopted a new, amended law, but dissatisfied stakeholders once again described it as a bad law, claiming that despite numerous criticisms by experts and citizens it remained almost unchanged and full of poor and unimplementable regulations. They also criticised the fact that the law was amended in just 13 days.

The government in February adopted an agreement on alleviating financial difficulties of the poorest social groups, estimating that its scheme to write-off household debts of up to HRK 35,000 could cover around 60,000 people.

The Opposition described this as a pre-election gimmick that would yield poor results and called for an integral solution to help 300,000 citizens with blocked bank accounts. The deadline for the submission of requests for a debt write-off lasted until July 31.

According to official data released in October, a total of 30,202 debts were written off or postponed and HRK 107 million in debts was written off by 294 creditors who had signed the agreement with the government. Claims for around HRK 15 million were put on hold.

Most of the debts were written off by Croatian Radio and Television, the HT telecom, the Vipnet telecom, the Croatian Postal Bank, Zagrebacka Banka, the Finance Ministry, the Croatian Health Insurance Institute, the Zagrebacki Holding utility congolmerate, etc.

In October, Croatian Radio and Television signed with the Ministry of Social Policy and Youth an agreement reducing the radio and TV subscription for pensioners with pension allowances of less than HRK 1,500 from HRK 80 to 40.

In late September the government introduced electricity vouchers as a way of combating energy poverty, offering vouchers in the amount of HRK 200 to recipients of welfare benefits. Around 125,000 citizens or some 70,000 households were entitled to the vouchers. The government said the vouchers would not lead to an increase in electricity prices. 

The national statistical office reported in May that the poverty risk rate in Croatia in 2014 was 19.4%, and that 29.3% of citizens were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. With the 19.4% poverty risk rate, Croatia was among EU countries with an above-average poverty risk rate and had the eighth highest poverty risk rate.

Statistics show that the poverty risk rate was the highest in the age group 65 and above - 23.1%.

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One in five Croats at risk of poverty

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