Ombudsman Takes Stand in Relation to the Operation of Kalocsa Children’s Home

In his report, Commissioner for Fundamental Rights Dr. Ákos Kozma concluded that some progress had been made at the Kalocsa Children's Home with regard to the staff headcount, the number of qualified employees and the reduction in staff turnover compared to the Ombudsman’s previous inquiry. However, serious, concrete and systemic problems were identified in respect of the physical conditions of the institution, the operation of its branch school and some other issues, therefore the Ombudsman formulated recommendations.

In September 2020, a Member of Parliament turned to the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights with reference to an article according to which serious emotional and physical abuses were taking place at the Kalocsa Children's Home as alleged by the residents and the carers of the institution. The Ombudsman launched an ex officio inquiry in the framework of which his staff members paid an unannounced visit and conducted an on-site inspection at the children’s home on 4 February 2021. During the on-site inspection, consultations were carried out with the heads of the institution, and interviews were made with several children and qualified employees.

In the course of the Ombudsman’s inquiry carried out at the Kalocsa Children's Home for the third time – the last one was conducted in 2016 –, the staff of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights concluded that some progress had been made with regard to the staff headcount, the number of qualified employees and the reduction in staff turnover compared to the previous figures; however, they also identified serious deficiencies as regards the physical conditions of the institution. They found that the amount of money allocated to the catering of children as prescribed by law is not sufficient for providing an appropriate quantity of healthy food to support the growth of children. Nevertheless, the inquiry did not confirm any abuses committed by the qualified employees against the children cared for at the institution.

The on-site inspection also uncovered a number of improprieties relating to the operation of the branch school of the children’s home. Among others, it revealed that there were several vacant teaching positions at the branch institution. It is a systemic problem that the new place of care received no information whatsoever about the educational history of the pupils placed in the children’s home. The children raised in the institution are still lagging behind several years compared to their age-appropriate education.

As pointed out in Report No. AJB-416/2021, the central special children’s home, which was established explicitly to provide care for children with the most severe conditions in need of special protection and intensive professional work, can only admit children after several months of waiting due to the lack of available places. The number of children with both special and specific needs exceeded the number specified by law in several groups. It continues to be a problem that the majority of children are already smokers at the time of their admission, and peer aggression is also significant. It poses a challenge for the employees to organise and hold prevention programmes or trainings on aggression management, and to help children quit smoking and cure their addiction.

In order to remedy the improprieties revealed, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights requested the Minister of Human Capacities, among others, to issue a methodological guideline for special children’s homes pertaining to the education and training of children in need of special care, as well as to revise the provision on the minimum amount of money allocated to catering. Furthermore, he initiated the development of a complex professional support programme which could help the institutions to provide more efficient assistance for the residents to quit smoking. He proposed that the maintainer of the children’s home report on the scheduling of the action plan prepared for the performance of maintenance works at the children’s home and the improvement of its physical conditions. Moreover, the Ombudsman called upon the head of the branch school of the children’s home to revise the institution’s operational practice and the documents that regulate it, and to take the necessary measures. He also asked the competent county chief prosecutor to closely follow the enforcement of the principle of zero tolerance regarding child abuse when carrying out the annual legality review at the children’s home.

For the report, please click on the following link: AJB-416/2021.