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PROPOSAL FOR NETWORKS OF COMMUNITY WORKERS IN POOR RURAL AREAS
Romania’s programme of institution closure reportedly aims to close most child and adult institutions by 2007. There are still 50,000 children in institutions, 70% of whom come from rural areas.
Many will be reunited with their families in areas of extreme poverty where no social support exists.
Such re-integrations are highly likely to fail without the appropriate support and lead to increased numbers of homeless children, suffering, child abuse, ill health, infant abandonment etc.
Existing structures are inadequate. There are impressive looking plans on paper. But the reality is that the fundamental community support mechanisms that are supposed to be in place simply do not function. (See note i)
An urgent intermediary plan is needed to boost support to the families of children and adults who are returned to the community after years – often a lifetime – in an institution. (See note ii)
We have over 12 years experience of rural community support and are proposing a new discipline – the Mobile Community Worker. They will act as a much needed missing link bringing the various existing community services (state and non-governmental) together. (See note iii)
A network of 10 Mobile Community Workers will cover 10 ‘communas’ (i.e. each serving 10 – 16 villages.) They will be co-ordinated from a regional central office in the area itself.
They will effectively act as a rapid reaction force in an otherwise sluggishly bureaucratic environment - speedily addressing families’ many social problems before things spiral out of control.
We have an outline proposal for a two year pilot project which we hope will lead to a national programme.
In the first year we can set up a network of 10 Community Workers for a population of 36,000 in the poor rural region of Podu Turcului, SE Bacau. (Budget £196,000.)
In the second year, the project could extend to the whole of rural Bacau. (Estimate cost £1,400,000.)
In year three, the plan would be ready to go national (Estimated cost around £1,000,000 per county x 42 counties). At lesser cost, the project could be targeted at extremely poor rural areas e.g. Moldova in the NE and Bargan/Targu Jiu in the south.
Aims of the project
- To provide an emergency template project for social support in
deprived rural areas.
The outline proposal
A pilot project in a targeted deprived rural area known as the
Podu Turcului region in SE Bacau county. This region of Moldova
is poor even by Romanian standards. There is little employment and
most families survive by subsistence farming on small plots of land
which may be many miles from their home.
2004: Implement a network of Community Workers in 10 “communas”. Budget £196,120
A communa is a rural administration centre in larger villages
which serve 10 – 16 satellite villages. They are under the
jurisdiction of local mayors. The average communa population is
around 3,000. Each communa is served by a doctor and community nurses.
However, not all these posts are filled and many communas have no
medical services at all. The communa head villages all have a church
§ 10 Community Workers will report to a regional office and administration centre.
§ The Project Coordinator will supervise the activity and conduct statistical analysis of the social problems, the measures taken, the needs of the area and the cost.
§ The CW will identify all children and families at risk, perform home visits and a needs assessment. An Intervention Plan will be agreed with a Social Committee comprising key local representatives. This committee will meet monthly and report to all stakeholders.
§ The CW and her management team will access grants, distribute social grants of the project and gain access to the resources, disability living aids, community projects, family planning services and volunteer help that are available. They will promote and support new community support initiatives such as Day Centres and Community Centres for the disabled and elderly.
§ All grant applications will be centralised in the region
and be handled by an Administrator/Grants officer. The project will
liaise closely with the Mayor’s office but will maintain operational
independence. Every effort will be made to train, motivate and assist
the mayors’ Social Assistants where this is not detrimental
to the project activity.
§ The CW’s will be active in the community on a daily basis. They will not be based in an office but see all clients in their own environment or at the local schools and dispensaries.
§ The teams will meet weekly at the regional office.
§ The following government and local authority grants will be accessed by the project for their clients:
Law 34: Ministry of Social Protection grants for food, clothing
and resources for poor families
Community Social Committees will be set up in each communa with c. 10 representatives of the church, school, dispensary, mayor’s office etc. They will make joint decisions on interventions proposed by the CW. They will motivate their communities to offer volunteer help, in kind donations, and resources. They will raise awareness of a sense of community, collective responsibility and involvement.
The project will aim to train and assist the mayors’ social
departments to become much more effective with the help of the Social
Committees. The emphasis will be on early intervention to prevent
future child abandonment, run-aways, educational failures etc.
Case studies with proposed interventions are below.
2005: extend the project to the whole of Bacau county rural areas – a total of 70 communas.
The early intervention pilot project can be spread regionally and nationally by personnel from other areas coming to “shadow” the staff of the pilot project before designing the set up of a new regional project.
Telephone: 00 44 20 87 61 22 77
NOTES – CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND
Note i : The supposed social support mechanisms
Mayors supposedly have budgets for community social support and designated social assistants.
Departments of Child Protection have family assessment and follow-up
The paper goes on to describe the policy called “Opening the back door” on personal planning for de-institutionalisation.
So we could say that while the front door is being closed, the back door opens onto a wasteland.
Relief Fund for Romania/Fundatia de Sprijin Comunitar (FSC - our main service delivery partners) have many years experience of delivering health and community support services in programmes of:
Mobile Health Care, Health Education, Home Care of the Elderly and Disabled, street children’s Refuge, Return to Work/School Programmes and Arts Therapy for the Disabled for special needs children and adults.
In addition to a record of long-term success in direct services, FSC has developed a reputation for quality “train-the-trainer” courses in elderly health care, health education and play therapy, a history of cooperation with local agencies and other NGOs, extensive experience managing large grants and a reputation among international funding agencies for exemplary book-keeping.
Note iv Training
Following recent health care reforms, many rural nurses were made redundant. Young people have been encouraged to qualify as psychologists but there are limited job opportunities. It is likely that such factors will contribute to a suitable recruitment pool.
Though the initial intensive training will be only one week, training will be continuous. Experience with the training of community Home Carers has demonstrated this to be an effective method, especially for mothers with families, who cannot afford long periods of study with no income.
FSC have recently been accredited by Open College Network UK (OCN) as an approved training organisation. The first such approval in Romania as part of OCN’s extension into Europe.
Until recently, there had been no social worker training in Romania since the early 1970’s, Romania being portrayed as an ideal society with no social problems. Social workers are now being trained but not at a rate that can address the huge national need.
NGO’s have attempted to train existing rural social workers (called "referenti sociali" in Romanian if they have no training in social work). They aimed to motivate them to become more efficient in assisting families in need in their areas. The project failed because the trainers themselves ended up dealing with an overload of paper work re Law 416 (re. the minimum guaranteed income) and other tasks in the mayors' offices.
Another reason for failure was a lack of resources allocated for the social protection department. No budget, the payment of the minimum wage, no transport or facilities led to poor motivation and performance.
The examples analysed below show possible ways of intervention
by a Community Worker. The illustrations refer only to critical
situations when poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism, lack of
services, etc. are at risk factors that adversely affect the reintegration
Plan of intervention:
Case Study 2. Very young single pregnant woman at risk of abandoning her child at birth.
Early intervention in such situations is quite rare, as the circumstances
are normally kept hidden by the mother.
Family at risk of abandoning a child with disability shortly after birth:
§ the CW will facilitate the access of the family to information
regarding the problems and the special needs of the child (from
Internet or other organisations)
Case Study 4. Family with numerous children
The situation when children live in unhealthy environments and
suffer from: malnutrition, neglect, verbal and physical violence
and children who work from early ages, etc.
The CW establishes the steps in the plan of intervention and monitors/helps
the family to go through all the stages. If the family fails to
improve their condition in spite of all the efforts and the children
continue to be at risk, the children should be removed from the
family and placed in an institution and then a new plan established
for the families.
Case Study 5. Reintegration of adult person with handicap with elderly parents
Such situations can occur as a consequence of the new national
strategy. The CW can facilitate/state the decision against the reintegration
The plan can include:
The CW should be proactive in the community in identifying groups
that need help: elderly, people with handicap, single mothers, poor
Case studies by
This is available on request
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