Czech Gov't Agency for Social Inclusion wants to focus more on activation and community work
The Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion is preparing to open up centers in three regions in January. Branches of the Agency should open in Ostrava, Prague, and Ústí nad Labem.
Director Radek Jiránek made the announcement at a conference about the activity of the Agency yesterday. Around CZK 10 billion from the EU should flow into social inclusion in the Czech Republic in the coming years.
That money is to be divided between 70 cities and municipalities. The Agency will coordinate their projects.
"There will be three centers as of January in Ústí nad Labem, Ostrava and Prague. They will be fully staffed with consultants and experts focusing on debt relief, social aid and other areas," the director said, but did not specify how many people should be working at each center.
Agency in crisis
The Agency began its work in March 2008. It is a Department of the Office of the Government.
Currently the Agency is part of the agenda of Czech Human Rights Minister Jiří Dienstbier (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD). It collaborates with cities and municipalities that have ghettos on their territories.
Agency advisers are supposed to contribute to putting local councilors, nonprofit organizations, police and schools in contact with each other to jointly attempt to improve local situations. This spring the Agency experienced a big shakeup.
Protests broke out there after the unexpected dismissal of the then-director. One-third of the 70 employees left the Agency as a result.
After the spring crisis, 12 local consultants working in various cities and municipalities ended their collaboration with the Agency. Dienstbier said he removed the director because he had made errors in concluding contracts and was poor at communications, while the dismissed director said those official reasons for his dismissal were pretexts and that what was actually at issue was a conceptual dispute over the future direction of the Agency.
Work in the ghettos
The number of so-called excluded localities is rising in the Czech Republic. During the last nine years, the number has doubled from 300 to 600, according to an analysis commissioned by the Czech Labor Ministry.
Those ghettos are located in 297 cities and municipalities and as many as 115 000 people live in them. In 2006 that number was 80 000.
The Agency collaborates with selected local governments over a three-year period. Currently it is working in 36 cities and municipalities.
Dienstbier recently said that 28 of those are prepared to join a newly-coordinated project to draw on EU money. Jiránek said yesterday that three public tenders should be issued through which municipalities can apply for EU money.
From the assessment reports on the Agency's work in 18 cities, micro-regions and municipalities, it can be seen that while the Agency seeks comprehensive solutions and has succeeded in bringing together various local "players", it has not yet involved ghetto residents and their neighbors themselves in its work. "The Agency manages to very clearly communicate the crucial nature of these partnerships and is attempting to conceive of this topic in a comprehensive way, but its weakness is that it does not involve the people whom this work concerns in the work and has little contact with the socially excluded and those around them," said the author of that assessment, Vendula Gojová.
She believes that the approach taken by local politicians also plays a role in inclusion. According to project manager Zuzana Drhová, the Agency is already attempting to eliminate these "weaknesses" and wants, among other things, to concentrate more on community work and to attempt to activate people from the ghettos in long-term projects.
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