By Ljiljana Samardzic
Sombor, Sept. 21, 2009 (Serbia Today) - During last one and a half year, older citizens of Serbia, who were unable to look after themselves or have difficulties completing their house chores, were offered the possibility of getting a home help free of charge.
Reason for this lies in the new program supported by the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy regarding social care for older people, which the Municipality of Sombor joined in its early stage.
When this program started, there were only 3 or 4 Counties involved, but today this program is spread all over Serbia. The need for helping older and unable people was especially recognized in Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. Serbia Today reporter spoke with Mr. Nedeljko Stojsavljevic, Secretary of “Crvenka” Local Community in Sombor.
ST: When and how was recognized the initial idea for this kind of project?
Mr. Stojsavljevic: “I personally recognized this problem in time of NATO bombarding when we were obligated to made program of civil protection. We had to make a list of all objects and people who lived here in case something happens. Then I had realized that there are lots of people living alone and that they are mostly old people. After a while, we paid visits to some of them, talked with them and concluded that they don’t have any children or they are very far away from them or other relatives.
Unfortunately, we are witnesses of very unpleasant way of living when people do not care for each other any more. Even in smaller communities such as villages, there is a lack of solidarity, social contacts and, most of all, will to help. We have tried few times to actualize this project under favor of some NVO’s, but without any success. Then, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy opened a competition and our project passed. “
ST: Are people who work on this project volunteers or are they paid for their work?
Mr. Stojsavljevic: “We cooperate with National Service of Employment and they recommend us people from Labor Market. This, third time, the project is financed by Autonomous Province of Vojvodina unlike before, when it was financed by Republic Government. People are volunteering only from time to time, but we didn’t had any serious problems on that matter.”
Mr. Stojsavljevic also said that there are female and male housekeepers since there are not only chores concerning cleaning, washing and other domestic jobs. There are also jobs where men are needed such as chopping the wood and alike.
ST: Who can apply for this service? Are there any special conditions?
Mr. Stojsavljevic: “Incomes of each household has being checked out. Households with income up to 35000 RSD and without foreign pensions fulfill conditions. We also pay attention if someone has any kind of chronic disease or has constant medical expenses. We sum up all incomes and subtract all expenses and if they have enough money left, we recommend them some of the services, which pay up for their work. For others, we do it free of charge.”
ST: How person can apply for your service?
Mr. Stojsavljevic: “We have a database of all old people in our County and Center for Social Work has database of unable old people. Basically, we come only after person calls us. That is why we leave in their mailboxes a kind of application and notify them that there is someone willing and authorized to help them. We also have numerous situations when someone else applies for another person because older people are usually ashamed of being in a need for help. We have currently around 300 people, but the list is constantly changing due to often death case.”
ST: How does this service functions?
Mr. Stojsavljevic: “After a call, we visit a person and have a talk. Our intent is to meet those older people with our workers, so that others, who are not part of this project, cannot abuse their vulnerability. Our workers get daily instructions and official paper from service, which consumer must sign. In our daily 15 minutes meetings we get feedback from workers.
I also have to mention that there are those with more or less serious psychical problems among consumers. We keep records about them and inform local Center for Social Work or psychiatry. We exchange information because some of their patients are our clients, so we warn our workers to be more patient and cautious with them.
Any worker has to pass a special test to see if they are capable to help older people.”
The intention of those projects is that older and unable people have non institutional care as well. But, maybe it would be fairer if Ministry could balance pensions for all citizens. Then, old people would not be embarrassed because their incomes are insufficient for normal living standards.