“We are starting a new phase in the Roma integration programme. Focused efforts of the City in the past few years have yielded excellent results –Romani district (tabor) in Vilnius was closed. Now we will focus on various integration programmes even more, with education being the centre of attention,” said Vytautas Mitalas, Deputy Mayor of the capital.
Some of the programme’s measures will be continuous, but there also are some new things. The plan is to offer individual and group psychologist, social pedagogue, social worker consultations to Roma families who have minor children, paying special attention to their inclusion in the life of educational institutions, while solving emerging social problems. There also are plans to order a research on the participation of Roma children in the education system in Vilnius, which would analyse the availability of pre-school, primary, basic and secondary education services for Roma children, and the effectiveness of cooperation of institutions responsible for children’s right to education.
“The approval of a new Vilnius programme for the integration of Roma into the society is a very important stage, which we are entering having solved the problem of the tabor. The new programme includes not only continuous activities that the City of Vilnius has been engaged in for a long time. These activities include ensuring that Roma children attend educational institutions, organizing non-formal education or providing assistance in finding employment, but there also are some new measures. Taking into account the observations of representatives of the Roma community, non-governmental organizations and institutions working with the Roma, the new programme includes measures to reduce stereotypes about Roma people, to organize self-help groups for Roma women, to train on the peculiarities of working with Roma, and to promote the integration of the Roma into the labor market”, said Evelina Dobrovolska, Head of the Working Group on the Integration of Roma of Vilnius and the author of the legal act.
The programme is also aimed at promoting Roma adult literacy, improving professional and social skills, increasing the scope of vaccination of Roma children according to the preventive vaccination calendars of the Republic of Lithuania, ordering an independent study on Roma discrimination in the health sector, which would become a basis for future action and reduce the number of Roma who do not have health insurance. An additional service of an intermediary, who would accompany Roma children to medical institutions and an incentive system for families (tickets to cinemas, swimming pool, events, etc.) have also been planned.
“Roma integration is the most difficult task. Without the support of authorities, it would be very difficult. Although a significant change in the integration of the Roma can be observed, one of the most important tasks – eviction of the tabor – was implemented, but there are many other situations, which require new solutions, ahead. Moreover, not all challenges have been resolved, not all measures have worked, therefore activities to help Roma integrate and the society to get to know and accept them have been included in the new programme. I am happy that all the institutions working with the Roma will take part in this programme: both educational and social specialists have made proposals that will really improve the actual situation of the Roma. After reviewing the implemented programme, directions and priorities have been set based on real life examples, so the new programme is realistic and reasonable. There is still a long way to go, and one of the key challenges is not only for the Roma to change themselves, but also for the society to change as a whole, breaking stereotypes that hinder the perception and acceptance of the Roma as an integral part of Lithuanian society and community,” said Vaiva Poškaitė-Tomaševič, Head of the Association of Roma of the Baltic Region.
The aim will be to disseminate good practices and achievements of the Roma and their organizations more actively, to organize self-help groups and to provide comprehensive measures for Roma women by strengthening social skills of women and girls, providing information about health, protection measures, by introducing provisions of the Law on Equal Opportunities and reducing stereotypes, to organize courses for the development of independence and new skills (e.g. manicures, haircuts, etc.), including consultation on independent living using public services or social assistance for Roma women returning from prison. Case management will be applied, also providing information and mediation services in pursuit of the openness of the Roma community to institutions.
In the implementation of the programme, institutions and organizations of the City of Vilnius will be encouraged to employ Roma. Financial support will be provided to address accommodation issues. Trainings on working with Roma will be held for law enforcement, educational institution employees and social pedagogues, employees of social service centers, health care institutions, the employment service, and trade union representatives.
Having approved the programme, annual reports on the implementation of the Vilnius Roma Integration Programme will be prepared, presenting the programme to the Vilnius City Council.