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Romania: Accessible social assistance benefits, insufficient and costly education, care and healthcare services, better services for institutionalised children, limited participation

The situation of families in Romania is improving, although challenges remain with regard to the financial aspects of reconciling work and family life.

A unitary system of social assistance is in place at the national level, which is available for all families, focused more on social assistance benefits which create incentives for parents for returning to work, yet there is insufficient access to care services for children.

Romanian law on the protection of children’s rights places major importance on preventing a child being separated from its family. The main responsibility in this respect lies with the Public Social Assistance Service.

Most mothers work despite low availability of childcare

In 2012, 57.2% of Romanian mothers with at least one child under 6 years old are in employment, compared to the EU-28 average of 63.4%. However, overall parenthood does not seem to affect employment status of people with 71.6% of parents with at least one child under 6 years old being employed in 2012.

There has been a strong increase in the provision of formal childcare for children under the age of 3 (15% in 2012 compared to 2% in 2011) and for children between 3 and the minimum compulsory school age (59% in 2012 compared to 41% in 2011). However, this still puts Romania well below the Barcelona targets and the respective EU-28 averages of 28% and 83% respectively in 2012.

Furthermore 48.5% of people less than 18 years old are at risk of poverty or social exclusion (compared to the EU-28 average of 27.6%), which is almost half of the whole cohort. The share among families with children living in povertypdf Choose translations of the previous link  is also almost twice as high as the share of people living in poverty in the childless population.

On the other hand, overall employment rates of women and men are lower than the EU average: 52.6% and 66.8% versus 58.8% and 69.6% respectively in the EU-28 in 2013. Far fewer women in Romania (10.8%) work part time than is the case in EU-28 in general (32.7%) in 2013. In 2010 the unadjusted gender pay gap stood at 9.7% in 2012, which is below the EU-28 average of 16.5% in 2012.

Access to adequate resources

The Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Protection and Elderly People in Romania continues to implement a national program financed by the Romanian Government and the European Bank for Development, which has the aim to set up around 200 day care centres. Beneficiaries will be, among others, children whose parents are returning to work.

Romania has recently modified legislation on the unemployment insurance system and on job growth in order to better integrate active and passive labour market policies. The legislation currently includes two measures for supporting parents’ participation in the labour market. The first measure refers to free of charge vocational training provision for people who get back to work after parental leave for children with disabilities aged two or three. The second measure refers to financial incentives for employers that offer employment opportunities to the sole provider in single parent families.

Legislation in the field of social assistance has the purpose of improving the living standards of families with children. The legislation on child raising allowance (EGO no. 111/2010) allows parents to choose between two different ways of receiving parental leave and benefits for raising a child:

Option I: Parental leave and child raising allowance until the child is 12 months old. This is a monthly child raising allowance to the amount of 85% of the average net income of the last 12 months before the child’s birth; the minimum is 1.2 SRI (600 lei, about €130) and the maximum is 6.8 SRI (3,400 lei, about €850). A monthly allowance is paid in the amount of 1 SRI (500 lei, about €110) until the child is two years old if the parent decides to return to work before the child reaches the age of one. Unpaid parental leave is granted when the child is between one and two years old if the parent decides not to return to work.

Option II: Parental leave and child raising allowance until the child is 24 months old.

This is a monthly child raising allowance to the amount of 85% of the average net income of the last 12 months before the child’s birth; the minimum is 1.2 SRI (600 lei about €130) and the maximum is 2.4 SRI (1,200 lei about €300); the monthly allowance in the amount of 1 SRI (500 lei, about €110) is paid until the child is two years old if the parent decides to return to work after the child reaches the age of one.

The monthly allowance for parents who return to work covers the total or partial cost for child day care. In addition, during the parental leave and for 6 months afterwards, the parent taking parental leave has a guaranteed job which means that the employer cannot dismiss him/her.

Furthermore there is a program for family allowances (law no. 277/2010). This allowance is means-tested and is paid to families with children if their monthly net income (divided by the number of family members) is lower than a threshold of 1.06 SRI (530 lei about €120). The programme is designed to provide better conditions for the care, education and upbringing of children, as well as to increase school attendance rates of children in families who receive the allowance.

Families have the right to receive a monthly state allowance for each child (200 lei, about €45) until the child is 2 years, or 3 years in case the child has a disability. After that, the allowance is 42 lei and 84 lei respectively for a child with a disability up to the age of 18, or until their education is completed.

The family or guardian of a child with a mild, medium or severe disability has the right to receive social assistance during the time in which the child is in their care, supervision and support.

Access to affordable quality services

Social assistance, social services and the education, health and housing services in Romania are equally provided to all the beneficiaries that fulfil the legal criteria. The coverage of these services depends on their availability at the local level because local authorities are responsible for these. The central level has a regulatory responsibility in the field of services and can also allocate limited financial resources from the central state budget for accredited organizations that provide such services.

Children’s right to participate

Recently the law on child protection was modified, with more provisions being introduced covering a wide range of areas.

Therefore new chapters were introduced covering children whose parents are working abroad, children involved in artistic, sports, advertising and cultural activities, and ways of ensuring the personal relationship between a child and their parents.

At the same time, the recent legislative changes are also introducing a number of criteria that should be taken into consideration when establishing what the best interest of the child is. These criteria will be taken into account by all professionals and authorities when making a decision regarding a child.

Further outlook

The government considers efficient public services as the best way to address issues of child poverty and to increase children’s well-being. Romania is currently drafting a new government strategy in the field of protection and promotion of children’s rights, which will be based on a comprehensive approach in different priority areas (social services, education and health), so that children’s rights can be insured in a coordinated and coherent manner. This will be accomplished through inter-institutional cooperation between the responsible ministries and the involvement of the NGO sector.

Reforms of the educational system are set out in the National Anti-Corruption Strategy in Education (2013-2015) following a series of corruption scandals in the educational system.  In the area of child and family protection one of the existing strategies for the future are the National Strategy for Combating and Preventing Family Violence (2013-2017), adopted in October 2012, and the Strategy for Inclusion of the Romanian Citizens belonging to Roma Minority (2012-2020), adopted in 2011.
At the regional (county) level, decentralised 47 General Directorates for Child and Family Protection do their own strategic planning however the administrative capacity of these Directorates varies a lot. However, most of these have their own approach to child and family protection and the level of services provided, and half of these Directorates have a county level strategy in the field of child and family protection or social inclusion.

Moreover, the Romanian Government intends to continue the implementation of projects within the National Interest Programmes (NIP), which have the purpose of closing down old institutions, extending family-related services and housing for families. In addition to that, projects which are co-financed by the European Union are aimed at a diversification and extension of services that prevent the separation of children from their families.

The information in the country profile was last updated in November 2014.

In previous years a shift took place from interventions of national authorities in the area of de-institutionalization to more prevention. Over the next years Romania intends to promote and implement a package of integrated community services which ensure a more efficient protection of the vulnerable children. The service package will aim at the coordination of activities by specialists in different areas, such as health, education and social services focused on preventing the separation of children from their families.

The investment in community based services is considered to be a solution that supports the interests of children and their families, and which is also more cost efficient. The investment in community based services can therefore lead to the decrease in costs incurred by institutional care.