Ukrainian Child Rights’ Ombudsman Visits the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights
On 6 September 2019, Ukrainian Child Rights’ Ombudsman, presidential appointee for child rights, Nikolai Kuleba visited the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights with his delegation composed of his expert staff and social professionals working for Ukrainian civil society organizations.
The aim of the delegation’s visit to Hungary was to learn and acquire first-hand experience about the Sure Start programme and the “Tanoda” second-chance school programme, the independent and assisted living possibilities of disabled youth who have come of age, and to gather all those good practices that may be successfully applied in Ukraine. The professional meeting held on this topic in the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights was attended by dr. Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay, Deputy Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, Ombudsman for the Rights of National Minorities, as well as the staff members of the Department for Equal Opportunities and Children’s Rights of the Office.
During the meeting, the Ukrainian Ombudsman presented the key problems and achievements of the Ukrainian child protection system and social sphere. Among others, he described the functioning of the institution of the National Youth Council set up with the cooperation of the youth – as well as young adults having been raised in children’s homes –, which plays an important role in the development of the Ukrainian youth policy. Nikolai Kuleba pointed out that currently, there are 71,000 children in Ukraine who are deprived of their parents. Most of them are under guardianship exercised by their relatives, while others are being raised in family-type group homes or residential children’s homes.
Deputy Commissioner dr. Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay explained that she devotes special attention to the problems of young persons belonging to national minority communities. In close cooperation with the experts of the Department for Equal Opportunities and Children’s Rights, they have prepared numerous reports on the situation of children and youth affiliated with the Roma community. Head of Department dr. Beáta Borza presented the current state of affairs concerning deinstitutionalisation, as well as the situation and problems of the inclusive education of children living with disabilities – that is, the co-education of young persons with learning disabilities and youth not affected by such challenges –, and she also touched upon the difficulties arising from the lack of expert staff in professions related to child protection, social work and education. Head of the Unit for Children’s Rights and Deputy Head of Department, dr. Attila Lápossy presented the directions of the Commissioner’s strategy on children’s rights, the methods and results of the inquiries, and he also talked about the main types of complaints submitted to the Ombudsman in the domain of child rights (e.g. educational issues, complaints related to the guardianship procedure).
The Hungarian and Ukrainian parties of the meeting all agreed that only the long-term cooperation of the representatives of the profession, science, law and politics can induce significant progress and bring a solution to the problems discussed during the meeting. Ombudspersons can facilitate the materialization of the latter by acting as catalysts and keeping fundamental rights- and child rights-related considerations on the agenda. It is crucial to ensure the involvement and participation of children in the common thinking about their lives and problems.