The Protector of Citizens has urged the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy and the Ministry of Finance to provide an adequate number of professional workers in the Social Welfare Center in Sokobanja as soon as possible since the Institution has been working without a single social worker for a year, and in such conditions, among other things, it concludes child intercountry adoptions.

The Protector of Citizens determined that both ministries had made omission in their work in not taking all the necessary measures to provide an adequate number of professional workers in the Sokobanja Center, which had concluded an intercountry adoption the previous year without a social worker being present, and another such adoption should be concluded by the end of the year; a 60-days deadline, in which both ministries should inform the Protector of Citizens about the measures taken, was set.

The Protector of Citizens highlighted that the Ministry of Labor was bound to provide the adequate number of professional workers in Social Welfare Centers in order to fully enable the exercise of the rights of all social welfare services beneficiaries, particularly the exercise of rights and best interests of a child, including in domestic violence investigations.

In the procedure of controlling the legality and regularity of work of the Ministry of Labor, further to the SWC Sokobanja’s complaint that it had numerous problems caused by understaffing, the Protector of Citizens determined that the Center informed the competent ministry in October 2019 that it had been left without the only social worker and with only two professional workers employed, although there were three vacancies.

The Protector of Citizens established that for the previous six years, more precisely since 2014, SWC Sokobanja had been asking the competent ministry to fill the vacancies, but that it had always received the same answer - the request would be decided upon in the coming period.

The center further states that the number of cases is constantly on the rise, that there are no social workers employed, that there is a lack of professional workers and that the center currently employs only three workers - a lawyer, a supervisor and a psychologist.

In a statement to the Protector of Citizens, the Ministry of Labor stated that it had again sought the consent of the Government of Serbia Commission for the Employment of New Employees in the Sokobanja Center, but that it had not been decided upon yet. The Ministry of Finance declared in the statement that the proposals for giving consent had been decided upon once a month and that problems most likely arose because the centers did not resubmit their requests on a monthly basis.

The Protector of Citizens reminds that in 2018, due to a series of omissions in 30 cases, he issued a collective recommendation to the competent authorities, particularly highlighting the problem of understaffing in social welfare centers that would enable full implementation of professional work standards and adequate work of the Centers.