Low assistance and difficult criteria make it difficult for poor families to gain help from the social assistance programme in Kosovo.
By Enis Rexhepi for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 21/08/13
Some believe that Kosovo should expand its social assistance programme to include low-income families with children older than 5. [AFP]
Some in Kosovo are advocating for an expansion of the country's social assistance effort, which helped more than 31,100 families this month in what is envisioned as a temporary programme to assist needy households.
The programme is criticised by some for having too stringent standards to qualify and for providing inadequate assistance. The programme gives 40 euros monthly to qualified families.
Funding for 2013 is set at 27.2 million euros.
"Certainly the demands and needs of the citizens of Kosovo are much greater, but these are currently the Kosovo budget options," Fehmi Ibrahimi, head of Social Assistance Division at the Kosovar Ministry for Employment and Social Affairs, told SETimes.
A typical family that receives help, Hafize and Ramiz Buzuku of Kosovo Polje, say the assistance is not enough. The sister and brother are disabled and say that the subsidy is used on medication. They also care for their mother, who is elderly and often ill.
"I have a sick brother and mother is very old. These 40 euros and a small pension from the mother goes for medication and very little is left for food, with which we cannot survive even three days," Hafize Buzuku told SETimes.
Alban Zogaj, senior researcher at RIINVEST Institute, told SETimes that the current social assistance programme does not meet the needs of Kosovar society, considering the high level of unemployment and poverty.
"Also, it should be noted that the current social assistance Kosovar families get does not reflect the vital basic needs," Zogaj said.
Zogaj said the limited budget and multiple priorities do not allow "space" for an expansion of the programme. And as a result, officials put more conditions and limits on who may qualify.
The current programme grants eligibility to low-income families with young children.
"One of the parents of children under 5 years are considered as dependent person and as such … needs to care for the child, and child over the age of 5 years start the school and parent can seek a job," Ibrahimi said. "Since a while this criterion is required to be changed or removed entirely from the law, but any amendment or removal is estimated to bring budget implications."
The current law foresees the modification over time of the age limit, so that the child's age limit is raised gradually in order to change the criteria, which will depend on the funds available.
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