Czech Republic: Number of socially excluded localities growing
In the Czech Republic the number of ghettos and the number of needy people living in them is gradually rising. During the past four years there have been no significant improvements to employment, housing or security in these impoverished localities and their surrounding neighborhoods.
The authorities have so far only undertaken some measures to effect change in these places. That is the finding of a report for the Government on the fulfillment of its Strategy to Combat Exclusion developed by the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion.
The Czech News Agency has a copy of the new report. The Strategy was adopted by the cabinet four years ago and listed tasks for the 2011-2015 period.
"Of 71 measures, 18 have been completely fulfilled, 26 have been partially fulfilled, 24 have not been fulfilled and three have just been launched. It is evident that the desired effect has not been achieved," the authors of the report write.
According to the report, not only has the situation not improved, but in some places it has even deteriorated further, and the public administration is not responding to these facts sufficiently, which means there is a need for more coordination of these procedures. The measures concerned involve education, employment, health care, housing, security, social services and welfare disbursal.
According to the report, the number of ghettos are increasing and the indebtedness of their population is growing. More and more people are ending up in substandard residential hotels, with entire families repeatedly moving from one such facility to another.
According to an analysis from 2006, there were as many as 300 impoverished apartment complexes and neighborhoods in the Czech Republic. Around 80 000 people lived in them, mainly members of the Romani community.
Agency head Martin Šimáček previously told the Czech News Agency that findings from the field show there could be around 400 ghettos by now. The report does not present a new number.
The Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, commissioned a new analysis last year to map the current state of such places. According to the report on the fulfillment of the Strategy, during the last four years the security situation in the ghettos and their surrounding neighborhoods "basically did not improve".
Such places continue to report higher crime rates and more widespread rates of gambling and substance abuse. The investigation of crime in such places is usually complicated because of the interconnection of various offenses, which decreases the willingness of police officers to deal with the cases, according to the report.
The demanding nature of the work of police or other public agencies in impoverished localities is not reflected in their remuneration. Rank and file police officers are not trained in the issue of social exclusion or in social work with people who return to the ghettos after being released from prison.
There are also no specialists in eliminating loan-sharking currently deployed to the field. The housing situation has also not improved.
Since 2011, the number of households and persons who live in residential hotels has significantly increased. The cost of living in such facilities is very often significantly higher than normal housing costs, according to the report.
"As many as 80 % of the socially excluded localities feature buildings that require either partial or total reconstruction," the authors of the report have written. Subsidies are also lacking for the reconstruction of rental apartments that are already occupied.
The frequent moving of families from one residential hotel to the next makes it impossible to perform longer-term social work with the needy, and the frequent moves impact children's school attendance. Such children have not yet managed to be included into mainstream schools and often end up enrolled into "special schools".
Employment has also not significantly improved, according to the report. Between 30 - 60 % of adults in the ghettos are jobless.
When ghetto residents do work, it is in low-skilled or seasonal jobs. The authors of the report point out that some residents prefer to work under the table because of their high debts and fear of collections agencies attaching their wages.
The report states that welfare dependency in such places is a consequence more of low wages than of a generous welfare system. Since 2012, Labor Offices have been disbursing welfare, not local authorities.
That measure, according to the report, has tended to confirmed concerns that municipalities would lose interest in social work once welfare disbursal was not part of their remit. The Czech Human Rights Minister is now planning to update the Strategy for the 2016-2020 period.
The first version of the new Strategy should be ready by mid-year. Other state institutions will be able to comment on it in November.
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