Ombudswoman says COVID-19 pandemic has multiple effects on children

NEWS 23.05.202413:37 0 komentara
Patrik Macek/PIXSELL

The Ombudswoman for Children, Helenca Pirnat-Dragicevic, warned on Thursday that the COVID-19 pandemic is having multiple effects on children. This is in contrast to children's claims that they no longer have difficulties related to COVID.

“Research has shown mental health problems, an increase in violence against children, a weaker work ethic and lower motivation to learn,” she said as she presented a report to Parliament on her office’s activities in 2022, which was characterised by the end of the pandemic and the return to normal life.

Citing research findings, Pirnat-Dragicevic pointed to children’s growing concerns about war, climate change and economic insecurity, as well as increasing pessimism and feelings of loneliness among children and young people.

No adequate support for victims of sexual violence

She enumerated the problems faced by children and called for the adoption of a holistic law to ensure the protection of children, the establishment of safe shelters for them and the training of teachers and other professionals to prevent violence and act in cases of violence.

She also called on the responsible ministry to become more involved in efforts to deal with peer violence.

The Ombudswoman warned that there is no adequate support for victims of sexual violence, that the justice system is still not geared towards children, that children still have problems accessing health services and that the rights of children with developmental problems are being violated.

Pirnat-Dragicevic called for the urgent introduction of media literacy as a compulsory subject at all levels of education, starting with pre-school, and warned that extracurricular activities are paid for in most parts of the country, making them available only to those children whose parents can afford them.

In 22% of cases there was no response from the institutions

She emphasised that cities should make more efforts to make these activities available to children at risk of poverty. She pointed out that in 2022, 14,000 children are recipients of the guaranteed minimum allowance, living in persistent and deep poverty.

The Ombudswoman also called for regulations to be put in place to monitor conditions in playrooms and to make the protection of children on the road a national priority. According to police figures, 1,376 children were involved in road accidents in 2022, including 12 fatalities.

In 2022, the Office of the Ombudsman for Children handled 3,799 cases, of which 1,932 were new cases. The office issued 68 recommendations and warnings to various institutions, of which 36% were fully complied with, while in 22% of cases there was no response from the institutions concerned.

This raises the question of whether the Institute of the Ombudswoman for Children enjoys the support of the parliamentary majority or whether there is another reason why too few recommendations have been followed up, said independent MP Marija Selak-Raspudic, recalling that less than a year ago, MP Stephen Nikola Bartulica from the Domovinski pokret (DP) party, who is now a member of the parliamentary majority, collected signatures in favour of replacing Pirnat-Dragicevic because he claimed she was not doing her job well.

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