The Protector of Citizens identified shortcomings in the work of the City Centre for Social Work in Belgrade – Zvezdara and Palilula departments, in the case of the child whose father kept her in isolation in an apartment in poor hygienic conditions in the Belgrade neighborhood of Mirijevo, and requested this authority to inform it within 15 days on the determination of responsibility of the heads of these departments and all the professionals who worked on this case.
Also, during the procedure, the Protector of Citizens identified systemic shortcomings in the Law on the Foundations of the System of Education and Upbringing and asked the Ministry of Education to propose changes to this and the relevant provisions of special laws in the area of preschool and elementary education, which refer to the obligation to keep records of children who are old enough to attend the preschool program and to enroll in the first grade of elementary school.
A month ago, based on the reports from the media that in Mirijevo, a father had neglected his child for years, keeping her in complete isolation in an apartment in poor hygienic conditions, the Protector of Citizens launched an own-initiative investigation to control the legality and regularity of work of the City Centre for Social Work in Belgrade – Zvezdara and Palilula departments, Ministry of Family Welfare and Demography, Ministry of Interior, Healthcare Centre Zvezdara, Healthcare Centre Palilula and the City Municipality of Zvezdara. Subsequently, control investigations were launched against the Secretariat for Education and Child Protection and the Secretariat for Administration of the City Administration of the City of Belgrade and the Ministry of Education, and direct supervision over their work was carried out, as well a control investigation into work of the Savski Venac Healthcare Centre.
In the course of the procedure, a meeting was held with representatives of the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, and by means of an act of cooperation, information was requested from the First Basic Court in Belgrade about the proceedings conducted before that court, which concern the family-legal protection of the child, as well as copies of legally binding court decisions with which those proceedings ended.
The Protector of Citizens established that the City Centre for Social Work in Belgrade – Palilula and Zvezdara departments, did not undertake all the necessary activities regarding their own assessments that pointed to the impossibility of exercising parental rights by the child's father and did not sufficiently appreciate the information that indicated possible harmful parental behaviour of the father and the need to take measures to protect the child.
The Protector of Citizens established the same shortcomings in the actions of the Zvezdara and Palilula departments as those established by the Ministry of Family Welfare and Demography during inspection, which also ordered measures to eliminate the deficiencies. That is why the Protector of Citizens, in its recommendation, asked the City Centre for Social Work in Belgrade to inform it within 15 days about the implementation of the measures ordered by the competent ministry.
In the measures for eliminating the shortcomings, in addition to determining individual responsibility, the line ministry asked the City Centre for Social Work in Belgrade to determine the local competence of the City Centre department that will continue further work on child protection and that will immediately conduct a professional assessment of the parental capacities of the child's father and mother and immediately file a lawsuit for their complete deprivation of parental rights.
The Protector of Citizens also determined that the city Secretariat for Education and Child Protection and the Secretariat for Administration did not react in a timely manner after learning about the impossibility of keeping records on the enrolment of children in the preschool program and in the first grade of elementary school for a long period of time and did not try to systematically solve this problem.
Namely, from the statements of the controlled authorities, the Protector of Citizens established that the existing provisions of the Law on the Foundations of the System of Education and Upbringing, the Law on Preschool Education and the Law on Primary Education represent unenforceable and anachronistic legal norms that must be amended and supplemented, as well as that it is necessary to provide by law the obligation of the Ministry of Education to monitor the actions of the authorities that are obliged by law to keep records of children who are old enough to attend the preschool program and to enrol in the first grade of elementary school.
In the recommendations for eliminating the shortcomings, the Protector of Citizens asked the competent city secretariats to act legally and conscientiously in the future and to cooperate with other competent authorities in a timely manner in order to protect the rights of the child.
The Protector of Citizens further asked the Ministry of Education to propose amendments to the Law on the Foundations of the System of Education and Upbringing and the relevant provisions of special laws in the field of preschool and primary school education, which refer to the obligation of local self-government units to keep records and inform preschool institutions and primary schools about children who are old enough for the preschool program and for enrolment in the first grade of elementary school. These changes would enable comprehensive monitoring and control of enrolment of children in preschool and primary school, as well as effective measures to be taken against parents who do not fulfil this obligation, enabling other competent authorities to take measures within their competence to protect the best interests of the child.