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A total of 2,580 citizens were supported through improving access to various public health care and social protection services, while approximately 230 people from vulnerable social groups were economically empowered through skills training, resulting in work engagement and increased income for 145 of these persons.
“Cooperation with local self-government units is crucial for the improvement of citizens’ lives, exercise of their rights, public service access and equality among all citizens of Serbia. The role of civil society organisations is also paramount in this process, as evidenced by the results of these projects. It is particularly encouraging that full sustainability of the innovative services initiated through these projects has been achieved” assistant to the Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs Mirjana Ćojbašić said, thanking the Swiss Government and UNOPS for their long-standing support.
Certificates for the successful implementation of projects in Vlasotince, Ivanjica, Smederevo, Raška, Ćuprija, Novi Pazar, Negotin and Zaječar were awarded during the event. Projects were implemented within the public call under the name ‘New Ideas for Local Communities’ with the total value exceeding 110,000 Euros.
“The results of these projects indicate that if we join forces and have complementary action from various sectors, positive change can be effected. The projects were able to identify the needs of vulnerable groups and assist the most vulnerable members of the community in the proper manner. The Swiss Government is prepared to continue supporting all local and national level initiatives focusing on the improvement of social inclusion in Serbia” Richard Kohli, Head of Cooperation of the Swiss Development and Cooperation Office with the Swiss Embassy said.
Continued support from the Swiss Government and cooperation and guidance of the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs are crucial for successful provision of support with the aim of better social inclusion, as implemented through Swiss PRO and other programmes by the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS) in Serbia, Head of Programme at UNOPS Serbia Marko Vujačić stated.
“It is very important that the local self-governments decided to support services arising from these eight projects, so they can continue in the future. Civil society organisations can help in problem solving, especially in terms of needs of vulnerable groups at local level. Partnership makes sense and it should be supported and deepened”, Vujačić also said.
President of the Municipality of Ćuprija Jovica Antić also emphasized the importance of partnership with civil society organisations and pointed out how this became especially apparent during the emergency situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Early on in the crisis free movement permits were issued to persons handling tasks in the social protection domain, which enabled associations as service providers to act in the field without obstruction and provide support to the elderly and the disabled, which was the goal of the project we implemented with Swiss Government support by way of Swiss PRO Programme”, Antić said.
Procedures for funding civil society organisations to provide services to citizens were first improved with Swiss PRO support, followed by support for the implementation of 28 socially innovative CSO projects and an additional eight projects by local governments in partnership with CSOs.
“In spite of the difficult conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, local self-governments were successful in improving the quality of life for their most vulnerable residents. The total number of beneficiaries of support is four times greater than the initial plan” Ana Nedeljković Belja, Swiss PRO National Programme Manager pointed out.
Support to vulnerable groups was based on analysing the needs of the local communities and their priorities - Swiss PRO Programme Officer for Social Inclusion Nataša Ivanović remarked.
“The profile of supported male and female beneficiaries is diverse, with the youth, women, persons with disabilities and children predominantly represented. Other than skills training and on-the-job training, support was also provided for the improvement of mental health through professional counselling and neurofeedback, speech and physical therapy for children with developmental disabilities and home support services”, Ivanović listed.
More information on the results of socially innovative projects by local self-governments in partnership with the civil sector can be seen on the Programme Results section of the Swiss PRO website.
Head of Cooperation of the Swiss Development and Cooperation Office with the Swiss Embassy Richard Kohli also visited the sensory room in Svilajnac, a part of the project that the local government is implementing in partnership with the Svilajnac Centre for Family Care, supported by the Swiss Government through Swiss PRO.
The project enhanced the advisory and therapeutic work delivered in the premises of the Centre for Family Care by installing assistive devices in a sensory room for children with developmental disabilities. The project will contribute to enhancing motor and metal skills, self-control, ability to learn and communicate, thereby improving the children’s quality of life. Apart from therapeutic service provision, the project also includes psychological support for parents.
These activities are part of the Programme “Enhancing Good Governance and Social Inclusion for Municipal Development – Swiss PRO“, supported by the Government of Switzerland in cooperation with the Government of Serbia, and implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in partnership with the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities (SCTM).