Czech Government "takes note" of Agency for Social Inclusion report on 2016
On 26 July the Czech Government "took note" of a report from its Agency for Social Inclusion about that department's work during 2016. The expansion of the Agency for Social Inclusion to include three regional branches, the launch of a system of support for school establishers in the area of inclusive education, and a proposal to address trafficking in poverty through a Government material on housing in socially excluded localities were crucial moments in 2016.
"Thanks to the launch of two EU projects that provided most of our financing, we were able to follow up on our previous activities and continue, among other things, with supporting those cities and municipalities that have socially excluded localities on their territories. In terms of personnel we have stabilized, we have further continued our collaboration with local authorities, and we were active in 43 localities, almost one-third more than the year before," said Radek Jiránek, director of the Agency, adding that the department during 2017 has focused more on support in the areas of coexistence, housing, and relations between neighbors.
"For example, in the Kadaň locality, we have successfully managed to bring the local administration and the public together through common, regular meetings. On the basis of those meetings, where the public's needs and suggestions were discussed, a drop-in facility for children and youth was established. The club makes it possible for children to spend their free time in a fun, meaningful way. Thanks to this, there were fewer complaints from local residents about disorder and noise," said Pavla Radová, a methodologist with the Agency.
In 2016 the Agency expanded its geographic scope and established regional branches in Ostrava (its Eastern Regional Center), Prague (Central Regional Center), and Ústí nad Labem (Western Regional Center). This brings the Agency closer to the individual municipalities and people whom they are doing their best to support by means of establishing systemic changes.
Last year local consultants for the Agency provided project counseling on 109 projects worth almost CZK 600 million [EUR 23 million] from the Operational Programme Employment and for 39 projects worth CZK 500 million [EUR 19 million] from the Integrated Regional Operational Programme. The Agency also continued its central tasks and elaborated several crucial documents that were then adopted by the Government.
One of those documents is the "Action Plan of the Strategy for Combating Social Exclusion 2016-2020", which lists 92 specific measures for systemically responding to problems in the areas of debt, education, employment, health, housing, security, and support for families and social services. In the area of housing, for example, the plan establishes the aim of, by 2020, ensuring standard housing for 6 000 households whose members currently live in substandard conditions.
The Agency, on the basis of its expert activity, also contributed to designing bills on social enterprises and social housing. The department also developed another material (not legislative) on "Problems Related to the Housing of Socially Excluded Inhabitants and Proposals for their Solution".
That material presents the five main problems that associations of property owners, cooperatively-owned residences and impoverished people encounter in socially excluded localities. Exhorbitant rents, inappropriate use of apartment units, neglect of apartment maintenance by property owners, and overcrowding are especially problematic phenomena.
"On the basis of that material, new methodologies were developed for how Labor Offices are to proceed when aiding people who have problems with their housing. The discussion was also opened about the requirements for minimum standards regarding apartment units for which the state will provide housing benefits. That would ensure all people dignified housing conditions," said Roman Matoušek, an Agency expert on housing.
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