Social policy includes a number of government measures affecting the wellbeing of citizens, for instance – social insurance, healthcare, social work, housing and education. Hence, social policy is addressed by several sustainable development goals by 2030. SDG 1 – End poverty in all its forms everywhere implies the reduction in the number of people living in any form of poverty, the national social protection system which captures a large enough number of the poor and vulnerable, and ensures equal access to economic resources. Eradication of all forms of hunger and malnutrition (SDG 2) refers particularly to children and the most deprived. Particularly significant for the social policy is reducing inequalities (SDG 10) which addresses inequalities in income, but also safe migration and mobility as a key for bridging the growing differences. In this context, the promotion of inclusive and sustainable economic growth and employment (SDG 8) is also significant. The issues of social inclusion transpire also through other sustainable development goals, such as SDG 3: Good health and wellbeing, SDG 4: Quality education, SDG 5: Gender equality, etc.
The National Sustainable Development Strategy 2016-2030 nationalises the sustainable development goals. The key sub-measures to combat social exclusion (SDGs 1, 10, 11) include:
184.108.40.206 Efficiently apply the existing and create new programs focused on groups at risk of marginalization
220.127.116.11 Establish and support shelter and emergency accommodation programs
18.104.22.168 Improve housing standards for vulnerable groups and social housing.
In order to ensure social stability and reduce the poverty rate (SDGs 1, 2, 4, 8, 10, 16), the NSDS envisages the following:
22.214.171.124 Target socially vulnerable groups through efficient measures of social and other policies,
126.96.36.199 Improve accessibility, affordability and quality of social services.
188.8.131.52 Improve the system for allocation of social benefits and support programmes intended for those in greatest need.
In addition, the NSDS focuses also on the improvement of healthcare for mothers and newborns, as well as for other vulnerable groups. It highlights the importance of comprehensive, inclusive quality preschool education and lifelong learning for all. It emphasises the need to put in place the assumptions for healthy individual development within families and further efforts to eliminate all forms of discrimination, including the gender-based discrimination – SDG 5, discrimination against persons with disabilities– SDG 10, SDG 11, and the discrimination of the elderly – SDG 3.
Montenegro opened the negotiation chapter 19 – Social policy and employment. Pertinent EU Acquis concerns employment policy, social dialogue, labour law, occupational health and safety, equal treatment of men and women concerning employment and social security issues. Any discrimination on the grounds of racial and ethnic background, religious or other beliefs, disability, age or sexual orientation is prohibited. As regards antidiscrimination, this chapter is closely linked with chapter – 23 Judiciary and fundamental rights.
Worth mentioning here is also chapter 2 concerning freedom of movement for workers among member states, covering also social insurance issues (pension and health insurance, unemployment insurance, and the entitlement to survivor benefits). Within Chapter 19, Montenegro received three closing benchmarks: the first refers to labour policy, namely the alignment of labour legislation with the EU Acquis; the second regarding the amendments of legislation concerning antidiscrimination and gender equality in employment and social policy; and the third on building administrative capacities to ensure effective dialogue among social partners and future management of European Social Fund.
The European social model is defined in the White Book on Social Policy. It is underpinned by values of equal opportunities for all, welfare state and solidarity. Member States, however, design their own national social policies, with joint soft policy measures designed at the EU level. The European pillar of social rights rests on 20 principles, including that all children are entitled to education, protection and equal opportunities; entitlement to unemployment benefits; entitlement to minimum wage for all those lacking means of subsistence; entitlement to pension, healthcare inclusion of persons with disabilities; social housing and the right to access basic services. The Europe 2020 strategy sets the goals of reaching smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Inclusive growth includes the social component, which envisages the increase in the employment rate while attaining social and territorial cohesion. The recognised priority areas include: employment, skills and poverty. Thus, for instance, one of the targets for social inclusion is to reduce the number of persons exposed to poverty or social exclusion by 20 million or 25%. The need to continue eliminating poverty and social exclusion is further stressed in political guidelines of the new EC where particular attention is devoted to helping children in the state of social need. The European Child Guarantee will be set up in order for each child in Europe at risk of poverty to have access to healthcare and education. In its 2019 Report on Montenegro, the EC stressed that poverty was particularly present among children, the less educated and those living in northern and rural areas. It stressed the need to build capacities for effective supervision and assuring service quality, but also to have a wider range of social services, particularly at the local level, to complete the deinstitutionalisation process.
For instance, at-risk of poverty rate %; at-risk of poverty or social exclusion rate %; at-risk of poverty before social transfers (pensions are included in the income) %; unequal income distribution – quintile ratio (S80/S20)
The social policy in Montenegro aims to improve the quality of life for citizens by creating the conditions conducive to their autonomous and productive lives. The review of overarching strategic documents, such as the Medium-term Government Work Programme or the Development Directions of Montenegro, shows that social policy is primarily focused on creating the conditions for graduation from social protection through good targeting of benefits from social and child protection systems; activation of work-able social assistance beneficiaries; timely and adequate service provision to vulnerable groups by expanding the network of service providers; and by addressing housing issues under the terms more favourable than the market ones (the 1000+ project). These priorities for action are further elaborated through sector-based strategies.
The Strategy for Social and Child Protection focuses on better functioning of Centres for Social Work, improving targeting of cash allowances, and activation measures for cash allowance beneficiaries based on their individual needs (Specific Objective 1). It also focuses on improving the process of service providers licensing, and further improvement of services to continue with the deinstitutionalisation (Specific Objectives 2 & 3). This strategy is further built on by the Strategy for the Development of the Social System for the Elderly 2018-2022 which focuses on services specific for the elderly aimed to boost their capacity for independent living.
Thus, with the introduction of the Social Welfare Information System (SWIS), the number of cash allowance beneficiaries fell from 14,066 families in July 2013 to 9,146 in late 2018. Moreover, according to the reports by the authority in charge of the social policy, the total of 1,715 individual activation plans were developed, and 193 cash allowance beneficiaries were included in active labour market measures. This reduces the scope for potential misuse of social assistance by supporting work-able beneficiaries to enter the labour market. This further makes it possible to better target the neediest, and provide adequate services to the most vulnerable. The social and child protection services are on the upward trend, with the increasing numbers of both the licenced service providers and service users. Some examples of services include: home assistance for adults and elderly with disabilities; day care centres for adults and elderly with disabilities; day care centres for children with disabilities; family counselling; placement in shelters for homeless; helplines for women and children victims of violence; personal assistants; counselling; therapy; placement in shelters/safe homes, etc. With the availability of such services, vulnerable individuals are empowered for leading autonomous and productive lives. The remaining challenge, nevertheless, is to have more significant involvement of local self-government units in service planning and establishment to respect the principles of service availability in the least restrictive environment and prevention of institutionalisation.
Persons with disabilities fall among the poorest and most marginalised groups. The Strategy for Integration of Persons with Disabilities 2016-2020 aimed at improving accessibility of buildings, access to traffic and information (Goal 1), is also significant given the strategic importance of tourism. The Action Plan for adapting public buildings for access, mobility and use by persons with disabilities and persons with reduced mobility was adopted in 2019. In addition, the Strategy focuses on improving the conditions for employment of persons with disabilities, inclusive education at all levels, social protection and health, participation and equality, all closely linked with other sector-specific strategies. Of particular significance is the approach to curbing discrimination of persons with disabilities as elaborated in the Strategy for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities against Discrimination and Promotion of Equality 2017-2021.
Children with disabilities are exposed to 3.7 times higher risk of any form of violence. Violence has an adverse impact on school performance, has far-reaching adverse economic consequences and increases the risk of poverty. To that extent, the Strategy for Prevention and Protection of Children against Violence 2017-2021 aims to provide an integrated set of quality community-based services (Goal 2), but also to strengthen the judicial system to protect children against violence (Goal 3). In the context of social protection, the Strategy for Protection against Domestic Violence 2016-2020 is also important, since this matter is covered by negotiation chapters 19, 23 and 24.
Social policy should not only be dealing with marginalised groups. Any ad-hoc solutions to current social issued should be avoided, placing emphasis on systemic and preventative actions.