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Most Czech regions uninterested in subsidizing lunches for impoverished children, some because they would be Romani

26.6.2016 20:37
PHOTO:  Wokandapix,
PHOTO: Wokandapix,

For some time the numbers of children living in families who are in material distress has been rising in the Czech Republic, including the numbers of families who cannot afford to sign their children up for lunch at school. Even though ministries, nonprofit organizations, and Regional Authorities are aiding such children financially, the available money is not reaching all who need it.

The Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry (MPSV), for example, has prepared a food aid program with EU funding from which it is possible to cover the costs of providing lunch to children from socially vulnerable families. For the time being, however, only four out of the 10 regions eligible for the program have joined it, with those not doing so saying the administration of the program is too demanding, or objecting that such families already receive welfare.

Czech Television reported on 23 June that some regions also have a problem with the fact that among the impoverished families whose children would receive lunches through the program there would be Romani people. Interest in the MPSV program has been expressed by the Capital City of Prague, by the Liberec Region, by the South Moravian Region, and bythe Vysočina Region.

This fall a total of CZK 4 million (EUR 148 000) will be used to pay for school lunches for 700 children. Jana Ropková, a Prague city councilor working on education and EU funds, said nine municipal departments of the capital have already applied for the program, according to Czech Television's program "168 hours".

"In Prague we have more than 3 000 children living in material distress, so the number of 700 represents less than one-third of our need," she said. The Central Bohemian Region, on the other hand, has not applied for the program because its political leaders consider it unnecessary.

"One of the arguments against joining was also that socially vulnerable families already receive welfare and that this would de facto double the welfare they receive," Michaela Drobná, spokesperson for the Central Bohemian Regional Authority, told Czech Television. The public broadcaster's reportage also pointed out that the MPSV has noted a negative attitude toward financing lunches for socially vulnerable Romani families in particular.

"The children who have been born into Romani families are not eating any lunch at school today. We believe it would be appropriate to target this money at those families, but we have heard from several Regional Authorities that this is not an interesting target group for them," Martin Kučera, Deputy Minister for Economics and EU Funds at the MPSV, told Czech Television.

According to an estimate produced by the ministry last year, there are as many as 100 000 children living in families dependent on welfare in the Czech Republic. "The number of parents who cannot afford to sign their children up for lunch at school is accelerating quite rapidly. This is not just families from socially excluded localities, but mainly single fathers and single mothers. That group is currently most at risk of unemployment and potentially falling into poverty," Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová Tominová said last year.

bau, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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