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Photo: Protector of Citizens

The Protector of Citizens determined that the measures of the prohibition of movement, during the state of emergency caused by the pandemic of contagious COVID-19 virus, had negative impact on the exercise of different rights of children and that they had particularly negative impact on the realization of the rights of children with disabilities, but also on their further psychophysical development.

In “Protector of Citizens’ Special Report on the impact of the regulations and measures for curbing the spread of COVID-19 infectious disease on child rights”, which was presented today in Palata Srbija (Palace of Serbia), the right to maintaining personal relations with the parent with whom the child does not live and right to use the service of social protection (day care) were mostly subject of violations during the state of emergency as well as after it terminated.

Due to the impossibility of using the day care service, children with developmental disabilities withdrew into themselves, and according to the parents’ statements, the introduced measures had negative medium-term and long-term impacts on the child: hindering development, lasting negative effect, slow return to routine and deterioration of mental development, shows the Special Report of the Protector of Citizens.

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Photo: Protector of Citizens

In the Special Report in the Recommendations for rectifying the shortcomings, the Protector of Citizens stated that prior to adopting similar measures, the decision makers should consider potential negative impacts on certain categories of children, and take into account parents’ professional responsibilities and in compliance with that provide adequate support to children with developmental disabilities.

In addition, competent authorities should include, in adopting similar measures, children, parents and employees in social welfare institutions, while the competent Ministry should ensure that employees in day cares make individual plans of support to children in case of re-imposed prohibition of movement and that the work in such circumstances should be organized via online platforms.

Prior to the presentation of the report, Zoran Pašalić, the Protector of Citizens, said that both during the state of emergency and nowadays, the Institution he headed placed the focus of its activities on the protection of the most vulnerable part of population – children, elderly, people with disabilities and poverty-stricken.

"Our Special Report summarizes all activities carried out by the Protector of Citizens during the state of emergency to protect the rights of the child and refers not only to children with special needs but to all children who were endangered in such a situation," said Pašalić.

Pašalić emphasized that emergency situations required emergency response, change of work methods and adjustment to new conditions, and that epidemiological measures had changed during the state of emergency and, accordingly, the problems of citizens, which the Protector of Citizens reacted to, advised and submitted initiatives for changes in regulations.

Before the presentation of the report, UNICEF Director Deyana Kostadinova said that the measures of the Republic of Serbia to prevent the spread of the pandemic had been prompt and decisive, but that they had limited some children's rights and expressed confidence that the competent institutions would implement the recommendations contained in the Special Report in order to avoid possible similar situations.

Deputy Protector of Citizens for Child Rights Jelena Stojanović said while presenting the report that the reasons for restricting children's rights during the state of emergency included complicated procedure for obtaining a movement permit during movement ban, poor coordination of authorities and the inability to transform the day care needed to preserve and develop child's potential into activities that can be carried out remotely.

The Special Report of the Protector of Citizens has been compiled in cooperation with the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) supported by the UNICEF Office in Belgrade.