bernardica juretić.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Damir SENČAR /ds

Under the first working draft of the state budget for 2016, the Social Policy and Youth Ministry will have around HRK 4.4 billion at its disposal, which is around HRK 100 million more than in 2015, Minister Bernardica Juretic said.

The ministry's budget in 2015 totalled HRK 4.43 billion, of which 4.26 billion or 96.2% was spent, and this year the planned budget should remain at roughly the same level, Juretic told Hina.

In 2016, the ministry's priorities will be to improve the coordination of ministry activities and strengthen the system of social welfare, notably in light of regional imbalances.

Financial subsidies to associations will be allocated for programmes designed to develop additional and alternative services, with emphasis on those that are insufficiently developed. The ministry's campaign to prevent energy poverty will be resumed, namely the allocation of monthly vouchers for electricity bills in the amount of HRK 200, and the measure will possibly be expanded to include other energy products, according to the ministry.

Juretic said that the announced allowance of EUR 1,000 for every newborn child was very important for the country's population policy and that even though it would require significant funds, efforts would be made while drawing up the budget to provide funding for that purpose, too.

Asked if the amount of the guaranteed minimum allowance would be changed, the minister said that an increase in any social benefit would depend on economic growth, and that the launched reforms and more efficient management of funds could positively affect those benefits.

The current guaranteed minimum allowance is not a standard, it is the state's minimum support and our goal is to guarantee a standard that will be above the poverty threshold, said Juretic.

Commenting on a project envisaging the establishment of a single centre for social benefits, for which the previous government obtained a loan from the World Bank in the amount of EUR 70 million, Juretic said that it was an inter-agency project on which a broad public debate should be opened and a decision made.

The said, four-year loan was granted for a specific purpose but it includes a component that makes it possible to use a part of the money for other segments of the social welfare system, Juretic said.

The said project envisages unifying all social benefits to be run by state administration centres, to relieve the burden on social workers.

The minister said her ministry would additionally strengthen the already launched process of de-institutionalisation and put emphasis on strengthening foster care.

Juretic also said that her ministry, in cooperation with the ministry of health, would continue promoting cooperation between social welfare institutions and psychiatric hospitals in order to protect persons with mental disorders.

As for the possibility that a new Family Act will be drafted given that the current law was submitted to the Constitutional Court twice for an assessment of its compliance with the Constitution, Juretic said that the law should be analysed to see if it was enforceable. If it turns out that it needs to be amended or an entirely new law needs to be adopted, we will do so with a reason and based on arguments, said Juretic.

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