Czech Govt Roma Council sharply criticizes Labor Minister's repressive proposals on housing benefits
At its meeting yesterday, the Czech Government Council for Roma Minority Affairs discussed, among other things, the proposal of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MPSV) to amend the Housing Benefits Act. According to volunteer civil society member Edita Stejskalová, a resolution was adopted in which the Council called on the MPSV to implement the National Roma Integration Strategy and the Social Inclusion Strategy, both of which, in the Council's opinion, the bill currently contravenes.
The Council also discussed the results of a working group meeting to review the Government's 15 anti-poverty measures; the issue of publicly-sponsored community jobs; the revision of the Framework Education Programs in both primary and secondary schools to include Roma history as part of the civics and history curricula; Roma children in foster family and institutional care; re-codification of children's rights protections; and the grant programs of the Education Ministry and the MPSV concerning free lunches in the schools. "On almost every key issue, a resolution was adopted to better promote changing the situation according to the interests of the Roma Council. That means with respect to the proposed housing benefits revision, the establishment of a children's ombudsman institution, better interdepartmental cooperation, education, and with raising awareness of Romani culture in the Czech Republic. Each specific resolution then obliges the individual ministries to take specific, controllable steps," said the Czech Government Commissioner for Human Rights, Helena Valkova, in an interview for ROMEA TV.
"If the Roma Council then follows up and finds some department has ignored a particular resolution or has not implemented it consistently, then I can open that issue with the Government and inform the Prime Minister. That will make the process a full circle, and today's meeting of the Roma Council has confirmed its importance, maybe it will work better than it has in the past," added Válková.
Czech Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Jana Maláčová, whose proposal to amend housing benefits legislation is being criticized by non-profit organizations, other ministries and other experts, also attended today's meeting. According to the Government Commissioner for Human Rights, the comments from the Czech Government Council for Roma Minority Affairs on her proposed revision of social benefits were also very critical.
"The comments were formulated from the point of view of respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms, in the sense that housing is one of the fundamental human rights, and given how those two amendments are currently conceived, that right could be in danger of being violated with respect to some groups who are in jeopardy here, and there is no doubt that the Romani minority living in socially excluded localities is one such group," said Government Commissioner for Human Rights Válková to ROMEA TV. Stejskalová said of the bill to ROMEA TV that "Today we told Minister Maláčová directly, face to face, that her bill is implementing and preserving antigypsyism in the system. We argued that it was antigypsyist, discriminatory, and that it was in violation of civil and human rights in the Czech Republic."
According to Stejskalová, the solution is to get Roma into the labor market. "We talked about the measure of publicly-sponsored community jobs as something that, from a systemic point of view, is not resulting in people being employed long-term on the labor market," she said.
"If individuals are to be independent, then we must get them into the labor market. The barriers to their entering the market are their ethnicity and their low qualifications or education. So in combination with that aim, we also proposed answers and those resolutions," added Stejskalová.
Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková, Chair of the Czech Government Human Rights Council's Children's Rights Committee, also opposes the repressive proposals of Minister Maláčová. "We, on behalf of the Children's Rights Committee, have explicitly warned the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry about the riskiness of this proposal, namely the specific part that would restrict family housing allowances if a child does not attend school properly," she told ROMEA TV, adding that: "We would like to point out that there is a need to think about supporting children and families who are in crisis situations rather than acting repressively toward them in such situations, where effective state policy should be coordinated and should address both how to prevent such crisis situations and how to help the children from families living in situations that are actually burdensome, and to do so in a way that is coordinated and effective."
Tomáš Ščuka, a volunteer civil society member of the Government Council on Roma Community Affairs, commented on Maláčová's bill by telling ROMEA TV that "As it was presented today, it's a problem, in my view." According to Ščuka, tying the disbursal of housing allowances to children's school attendance is absolutely nonsense.
The Government Council for Roma Minority Affairs is a permanent advisory and initiating body of the Government in the area of Roma integration. It was first established by Government Resolution No. 581 17 September 1997 as the Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs.
In 2001 the Commission was transformed into the Government Council for Roma Community Affairs. A fundamental change to its Statute was subsequently approved by Government Resolution No. 254 of 29 March 2010, which also changed the name of the advisory body to the Council of the Government of the Czech Republic for Roma Minority Affairs.
- Third volunteer civil society member resigns from Czech Govt Council on Roma Affairs because of Human Rights Commissioner
- Lucie Fuková: I am resigning from the Czech Govt Council on Roma Minority Affairs because of how it runs and who is Human Rights Commissioner
- Another volunteer civil society member of Czech Govt Council on Roma Affairs resigns, Human Rights Commissioner convenes special session Friday
- Volunteer civil society member of Czech Govt Council on Roma Affairs resigns over Human Rights Commissioner affair
- Civil society members of the Czech Govt Council on Roma Minority Affairs differ on whether Human Rights Commissioner should remain in office
- Civil society members of the Czech Govt Council on Roma Minority Affairs say Křeček is unacceptable as Public Defender of Rights
- Czech Human Rights Commissioner to stay in office, most civil society members of Human Rights Council support her
- Czech Govt Human Rights Commissioner refuses to resign despite some Human Rights Council members calling for her to do so
- Roma civil society members on Czech Govt Roma Council tell Labor Minister her anti-poverty measures will instead produce poverty
- Czech Govt Roma Council recommends analyzing interwar assets of Roma and Sinti confiscated during the war, a still-unresolved matter
- Former Culture Minister joins Czech Government Human Rights Council
- New vice-chair of the Czech Govt Romani Affairs Council: Problems must be addressed, especially in difficult times
- Czech Human Rights Commissioner nominates former Culture Minister to Human Rights Council for organizing buyout of pig farm on Holocaust site
- Civil society members of the Czech Govt Roma Council seek meeting with Czech Interior Minister and PM over recent interethnic violence
- Czech Govt Roma Council, Public Defender of Rights release handbook on how Czech citizens can return from Britain
- Commentary: Czech Labor Minister's bill to change housing benefits will make life worse for those who need aid the most
- Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister has plan to re-open social services
- Vice-Chair of Czech Govt Council for Roma Minority Affairs wants to hear what Romani entrepreneurs need to respond to the effects of the pandemic
- Czech Labor Minister tells ROMEA TV the crucial priority is to prevent mass unemployment because of COVID-19
- Czech Govt Human Rights Commissioner thanks Roma for their aid during COVID-19 and wishes them well on International Romani Day
- Civil society: The Czech state is not fully implementing its Roma integration policy
- Czech Govt Human Rights Commissioner: Nonprofits are irreplaceable in combating COVID-19
- Czech ombudsman attacks volunteer members of the Government's Council on Roma, alleges the Romani minority is "inactive" and "just anybody" speaks for them
- Civil society members of Czech Govt Council on Roma Minority Affairs call on new ombudsman to meet
- Vladimír Leško of the Association of Romani Entrepreneurs and Guilds in the Czech Republic: Let's turn welfare recipients into taxpayers
- Jan Balog: Romani nonprofits in Prague will meet to discuss dissatisfaction with Czech Govt Council for Roma Minority Affairs
- Czech teachers disagree with proposal to deprive parents of children with high absenteeism of their social benefits